The future for the cocoa farmers look bright in the Northern Division as Government intends to establish a main collection centre in Dreketi.
Senior Agriculture Officer (Macuata), Kanito Matagasau said that close to $97,000 has been set aside to assist in the revival of the cocoa industry in the province of Macuata.
He said the current facilities at the Matasawalevu Cocoa project is being upgraded for it to cater for the small cocoa growers in the Northern Division.
“The dryers are being repaired which will assist in the proper fermentation process and maintaining a good quality dried cocoa beans for the markets,” Mr Matagasau said.
“About 3.5 kilometres of roads leading up to the existing facilities are being upgraded to allow for better excess. There are plans to plant more improved variety cocoa trees in this farm.”
Mr Matagasau said that once fully upgraded, the farm will be used as the main collection centre where smaller growers can bring their cocoa beans for processing.
The Matasawalevu Cocoa project is one of the largest cocoa farms in Fiji with all necessary facilities required for cocoa processing.
It is owned by Matasawalevu Cocoa Co-operative group and over the years, production had dropped drastically.
During its peak production time, the farm has the potential to produce 110 tonnes of dried cocoa beans annually but the current production is close to 1 tonne per year.
The whole farm and processing facilities are now being leased by Mr Arif Khan of Cacao Fiji who intends to develop this farm to its full potential.
Mr Khan said that looking at the potential production of the farm, he decided to lease it as there are huge markets available for dried cocoa beans.
“This cocoa farm is one of the biggest farms in Fiji comprising of a total land area of over 400 acres with all necessary facilities. The farm was left idle for 14 years with very less or no production but looking at the potential of this farm, I decided to lease the whole property since there is a huge global market for the dried cocoa beans,” Mr Khan said.
“Recently some fermented cocoa beans were sent to France and we have received positive feedback which seems to be another strong market where we can supply.”
The problem of black pod disease and pests such as rats and parrots also largely hinder production as it is becoming one of the major problems in the farm.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture Hon. Joeli Cawaki and other senior officials from the Agriculture Ministry visited the farm and the facilities last week and promised continued Government support to revive the cocoa industry in the Northern Division.