The Commodity Support Facility (CSF), launched in Buka on March 17, is a joint economic development initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the governments of PNG, Australia and New Zealand.
The CSF offers grants and targeted assistance to cocoa farmers, dryers, fermenters and traders from across the autonomous region.
The whole-of-industry support package will improve access to cocoa pod borer tolerant planting materials and establish new farmer field schools to help smallholders lift production.
Measures will include financial literacy and business management training and a competition to design improved cocoa dryers and fermentaries.
The CSF will, in the future, expand to support other primary industries prioritised by the ABG, such as coconut or marine resources.
ABG Minister for Primary Industries Nicholas Darku said the CSF would help Bougainville’s cocoa industry recover from the impact of the cocoa pod borer.
“We have two ingredients on Bougainville. One is fertile soil; the other is hard working people.
“With this support, I know the industry will come back. We will increase our production and ensure Bougainville cements its reputation for producing fine flavour cocoa.”
National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs director John Avira said cocoa is a very important cash crop for Bougainville.
“Alongside the CSF support, it is equally critical to have the access roads to bring the product to the market by the farmers,” Avira said.
“Partnership with other funding sources such as National members’ DSIP and PSIP could be explored to build roads to ensure the farmers are provided access to market.”
Australian High Commission minister counsellor Rod Hilton said the CSF would work with private sector partners to ensure assistance was well targeted.
“We want to ensure that support goes to projects that strengthen Bougainville’s cocoa industry and contribute to sustainable improvements in production and quality in all regions of Bougainville,” he said.
“That means working with big business, small business and communities, targeting innovators and entrepreneurs. But we also want to see positive impacts for disadvantaged groups, particularly women and young people.”
New Zealand High Commission counsellor development, Kathleen Pearce, said the CSF would help everyday Bougainvilleans earn more income and provide revenue for the ABG.
“Cocoa is Bougainville’s most important cash crop, involving about two-thirds of Bougainville families,” Pearce said.
“Strengthening this industry will provide widespread benefits for the whole of the ABG, bringing in more money and providing much-needed employment opportunities.”
A recent study of Bougainville’s cocoa industry found farmers could comfortably triple their production by using the right planting materials and improving their management practices.
“I think they can go from about 200-500kg per hectare, to an average of 1500kg per hectare,” Agribusiness consultant David Anderson said.
“But the genetic potential of the clones that are being provided to farmers is even higher; up to 2000kg or even 3000kg a hectare.”
Prior to the Bougainville Crisis, the now-autonomous region exported about 30,000 tons of cocoa.
Production had recovered to about 26,000 tons by 2009, when the cocoa pod borer hit the industry, driving production down to about 13,000 tons today.