The 2023 annual Bougainville Chocolate Festival is now underway, held over three days from the 26 to 28 September at the Hutjena Oval in Buka. It will be the largest event since the inaugural festival in 2016.
The theme of this year’s festival is “Innovation and Information Sharing to Empower Farmers.” A series of activities will explore and showcase innovative ideas, knowledge and information through the festival’s demonstrations, competitions and seminar presentations.
ABG Minister for Primary Industries, the Honourable Geraldine Paul, said that the festival is an opportunity to celebrate Bougainville’s cocoa production which over the last few years has increased, making Bougainville the biggest producer of cocoa in PNG. The growth in production has stimulated economic opportunities across the cocoa value chain from household farmers to traders and exporters.
“I am pleased that the festival has delivered wider economic benefits for Bougainville at this critical juncture where the ABG is challenged to grow its internal revenue. I commend the support provided by our key partners from the Australian and New Zealand governments in financing the festival,” she said.
Minister Paul said the festival supports the Toroama-Nisira Government’s Six–point Strategy, including Economic Growth and Control through the implementation and awareness of the Bougainville Commodities Act 2022 and the Bougainville Cocoa Regulation 2022.
Minister Paul announced that the Bougainville Chocolate Festival will be gazetted as an annual event in the ABG calendar, with plans to expand the Festival into an agricultural fair.
Australian High Commission representative, Dr Anthony Mason, said the festival is part of Australia’s commitment to support economic development in Bougainville. Through targeted support and grants to cocoa producers, small-holder cooperatives are supported to improve the quality and quantity of cocoa production.
“We recognize the increasing enthusiasm and participation of farmers across Bougainville and see the wider benefits they will receive from the festival’s demonstrations, chocolate competitions, and presentations. As a result, we have increased our support to enable the festival to be held for three days in 2023,” Dr Mason said.
“Cocoa is so important to Bougainville. Across the region, people at all levels of the community are involved in the cocoa industry as growers, buyers and producers. Bougainville cocoa is rightly recognised around the world as a high-quality product. The Chocolate Festival celebrates this and aims to elevate the reputation and quality of Bougainville cocoa to even greater heights,” he said.
More than 5,000 farmers across Bougainville will have the opportunity to participate in forums that promote improved industry processes and standards to drive higher quality and quantities of cocoa. A festival highlight is the chocolate competition where international chocolatiers judge, classify and showcase local Bougainvillean award-winning cocoa beans.
The local award-winning beans are then entered into the bi-annual Cocoa of Excellence Awards, the most prestigious global cacao competition that recognises the work of cacao farmers and celebrates the quality and flavour diversity of cacao produced around the world. Judged by international cocoa and chocolate industry leaders, the most recent 2021 awards honoured one Bougainvillean farmer with the prestigious Gold Standard Award in Paris, demonstrating the quality of Bougainvillean cocoa to the world.
The Bougainville Chocolate Festival was launched in 2016 and is part of Australian and New Zealand government support to a range of economic development initiatives in Bougainville, including the recently launched K2.2 million Bougainville Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (BACRA) Office and Laboratory for use by the ABG Department of Primary Industries.