THOUSANDS of chocolate lovers have descended on Buka to attend the annual Bougainville chocolate festival.
The festival held last Friday and Saturday, was an opportunity for cocoa producers to connect with international markets, and to improve the quality and production of Bougainville cocoa. In its third year, the event featured more than 90 stalls, judging competitions and musical performances.
Speaking at the opening, Andrew Egan from the Australian High Commission, acknowledged the growth of the event in just three years and the positive international feedback being received on locally-produced cocoa beans.
“Cocoa grown in Bougainville is unique. The chocolate made from the cocoa here has a distinct flavour which chocolatiers from around the world are noticing,” said Mr Egan.
“In partnership with the governments of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, Australia is proud to support the festival as it continues to grow, and to further develop the local cocoa industry.”
Following previous festivals, international cocoa buyers and chocolate producers are now using Bougainville beans for high quality chocolate in the Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Europe.
A key aspect of the festival is building relationships and sharing knowledge across the industry. Chocolatiers and chocolate buyers from Australia are attending the event, with three on the judging panel for the chocolate tasting competition.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has also been part of a project to improve the cocoa value chain and provide chocolate-making equipment to be tasted over the festival.
Many of the smallholder farmers at the festival are recipients of grant funding through the commodity support facility.
Australia is providing K10.4 million to 26 farming groups reaching 1300 farmers and their families throughout Bougainville. The grants are being used to increase the quantity and quality of cocoa, and to facilitate better access to markets.
The Bougainville chocolate festival is an initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in partnership with the governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.