\MINDANAO CHOCOLATE. Abel James Monteagudo, director of the Department of Agriculture in Davao Region (DA-11) (left) and Davao City Councilor Bernard Al-ag show the chocolates made by Mindanaoan chocolatiers during the opening of the 2nd Cacao Mindanao Artisan Chocolate Fair at SM City Davao on Friday (June 2, 2023). On the same day, a chocolate trade fair is held in Zamboanga City participated by nine local and regional cacao growers. (PNA photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.)

DAVAO CITY – Mindanao cacao byproducts are taking center stage at chocolate fairs in the cities of Davao and Zamboanga.

In this city, the 2nd Cacao Mindanao Artisan Chocolate Fair that showcases the best of Mindanao’s cacao opened on Friday at the SM City Mall.

The three-day fair gathered Mindanao’s best chocolatiers to put the island region’s chocolate industry on the map.

Top chocolatiers and cacao producers like MS3, Dais Chocolate, Cacao Culture, Cacao de Davao, Cocolibre Corp., Household Multipurpose Cooperative, Cacao City, Nutrarich Philippines and Wit’s Sweets & Savouries joined the event.

In his speech, Department of Agriculture in Davao Region (DA-11) Director Abel James Monteagudo said the event is a celebration of the declaration of the city as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines in May 2021.

This came after Congress passed Republic Act 11547 otherwise known as An Act Declaring the City of Davao as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines and the Davao Region as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines.

“We thank you for your untiring efforts for giving more cacao farmers and chocolate makers in Davao Region a venue to feature their cacao-based products,” Monteagudo said.

He also recognized three Davao cacao farmers Judith Gabasa, Policarpo Enricoso Jr. and Melinda Villaflor, who will represent the country in the 2023 International Cocoa Awards in Paris, France, on Oct. 28 to Nov. 1, 2023.

The three bested about 100 entries from across the country.

“Let us continue to promote the products of our local farmers. Buy local and eat local,” Monteagudo said.

Zamboanga chocolate fair

In Zamboanga City, the Department of Trade and Industry in the Zamboanga Peninsula (DTI-9) also led its Cacao Mindanao Chocolate Fair on Friday, showcasing cacao by-products to both walk-in customers and wholesale buyers.

The event, which will run from Friday until Sunday, is a collaborative effort between DTI-9, SM City Mindpro and the city government.

Engr. Al-Zamir Lipae, DTI-9 director, emphasized that trade fairs provide opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to market their products.

“By providing a platform for MSMEs to showcase their products, the fair facilitates networking, business opportunities, and market access for local cacao producers,” Lipae said.

Nine local and regional cacao growers and processors from the city, Zamboanga Del Sur and Zamboanga Del Norte are showcasing their respective products.

“When you say cacao, the public perception is only chocolate, but here you can see all the by-products like the chocolate soap and shampoo,” Aileen Ann Villa-Enriquez, the SM City Mindpro manager, said.

Meanwhile, Lipae highlighted the remarkable growth of the cacao industry in the region that is now thriving with over 3,000 stakeholders involved, including farmers, cooperatives, nursery operators, processors, input providers and traders.

He noted Zamboanga Peninsula has achieved an impressive production output of 515 metric tons, making it the second-largest national producer of cacao, with a 5 percent share of the national output.

The region currently has 1,743 hectares of cacao plantations, making it the fourth-largest area planted with cacao in the country. (PNA)