Thu, 09/18/2008 10:34 AM | Surfing Bali
The establishment of a Cocoa Processing Unit (CPU) in Tabanan regency has helped the local cocoa farmers to get better prices and to avoid the trap set by the tengkulak (village-level commodity middlemen).
The CPU is the result of collaborative efforts between PT Big Tree Farm, an agricultural commodities’ trading company, with Amarta, the agro-business initiative funded by USAID. Amarta built the processing plant, while PT Big Tree Farm manages the commercial aspects.
The facility lies at Lalanglinggah village in West Selemadeg and not far from around 4,000 hectares of cocoa plantations operated by local farmers.
Head of the CPU Gede Sukadana said the facility was established with one primary objective; to provide assistance to the local cocoa farmers.
“This is a business facility as well as having a strong social commitment to farmers’ communities,” he said.
Prior to the establishment of the facility, the local farmers sold their products, the cocoa pods, totengkulak.
The farmers, who didn’t sell to tengkulak, processed their products using traditional methods. This involved drying the cocoa beans on a tarpaulin sheet placed on the ground.
This traditional method, according to Sukadana, yielded dried cocoa beans of inferior quality, compared to those processed by modern methods.
“The taste and color of the beans didn’t meet the standard set for exports. The selection method was also below standard,” he said, commenting on the traditional method.
The modern post-harvest processing method employed by the facility involves three stages; fermentation, drying, selection and packaging.
The facility’s fermentation plant comprises three rows of containers made of wooden planks. The second row lies below the top one and the third row lies below the second. Each wooden container holds up to one ton of cocoa beans and has a trap door underneath it.
The wet cacoa beans are placed in the containers on the top row first and covered with layers of gunnysacks. After 24 hours, the trap doors are opened and the beans fall into the containers on the second level. The process is repeated until the beans are fully-fermented.
The beans are later transported to the drying facility, comprising a spacious area covered with wooden tiles, with a roof made of plastic sheeting. The drying process takes up to two days during the dry season and five days in the rainy season.
Upon completion of the process, the beans will go through a selection process before being packaged in the final stage. These beans are later exported to the United States and Belgium, or shipped for the domestic market to Makassar, South Sulawesi.
The local farmers sells their wet beans to the facility at a price of about Rp 7,000 per kilogram and the dried ones at Rp 22,000 per kilogram. If they sell the beans to tengkulak, the farmers have to wait for a considerable time before receiving their payments. If they sell them to the CPU, they only have to wait for ten days to receive their full payment.
“Another advantage is that the farmers will always be informed on the current price of cocoa beans. Based on the information acquired from the global commodity market in New York, PT Big Tree Farm’s communication officers regularly inform the farmers on the current prices by SMS,” he said.
“Therefore, the local farmers will always know about the appropriate prices for their products,” he added.
Currently, the facility workes with 40 cocoa farmers’ groups representing around 4,000 farmers in the region. The farmers have also received training organized by Amarta on improving the quality of their products.
“I believe that in five years this cooperation will succeed in not only improving the quality of the products but also in empowering the local farmers,” Sukadana predicted. — JP/Anton Muhajir