The assistance is being made possible through the Increasing Agriculture Commodity Trade (IACT) project TC Winston Recovery Action; a FJD4.3 million initiative funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).
The first recipient, Tomohito Zukoshi, co-founder of Fijiana Cocoa and Adi Chocolate brands, has recently received equipment needed to clear cocoa plantations and improve cocoa productivity.
The leading speciality chocolate manufacturer in Fiji is keen to develop a high quality supply of cocoa beans and believes that Fiji has the potential to become a regional leader in the cocoa industry.
Mr Zukuoshi and his team are assisting over 100 cocoa farmers through training in pruning techniques and post-harvest handling, as well as the installation of three fermenter and drying stations for selected cocoa farms in the central and western divisions.
“We were all affected by TC Winston, but one of the positive things that has come out of this arrangement is that we get to go out and meet cocoa farmers who like us are recovering from TC Winston and we bond over our shared knowledge and experiences. I hope we can create a strong network of cocoa farmers that will work together in the future to create a sustainable local cocoa industry,” Mr Zukoshi said.
“The EU and SPC are proud to play our role in supporting enterprises such as Adi Chocolate through IACT. The project is not only providing equipment but also training farmers to improve processing methods that will strengthen the quality and productivity of the cocoa sector, “said Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific, Corrado Pampaloni.
The assistance to cocoa farmers and processors is part of a range of TC Winston recovery support actions to a diverse group of commercial farms and enterprises in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors over the coming four months.
The assistance is offered in the form of building material, equipment, machinery and capacity building.
“The cocoa sector represents a diversification opportunity for farmers and this support enables the farmer to manage improved cropping methods and quality controlled processing, and most importantly links their production directly to the market,” SPC Land Resources Division Director, Inoke Ratukalou said.
Among the equipment handed over were chainsaws, trimmers, brush cutters and protective gear that will be used for tree and land clearing, cocoa tree pruning and training in crop husbandry.