The husband and wife were busy chatting under the cacao tree while splitting the cocoa fruit from the passage that day.
Jhony and his wife Martha are cocoa farmers in Sejahtera Village, Palolo District, Sigi Regency, Central Sulawesi.
Next to them was a pile of cocoa beans that had been separated from the skin of the fruit. To split cocoa fruit, both use simple tools such as knives and machetes.
The husband and wife in Palu, the Central Sulawesi Capital City, were very happy. They look happy because the yield of cocoa fruit this time is quite exciting compared to previous years.
“This cocoa harvest in 2018 is better than before,” said Jhony, who claimed to have a cocoa land area in Sejehtera Village covering 3 hectares.
He has not been able to estimate the yield, but when compared to the previous year, he made sure that this year’s yield increased significantly.
He said, the cocoa fruit this time was indeed quite thick. “The point is different from before,” said Jhony.
So far, farmers in Sigi Regency sell their crops directly to the traders in Palu because the price is quite high in the local market. The price of dried cocoa beans at the collecting level in Palu is currently around Rp.28,000 per kg.
According to him, the price of cocoa in the market today is quite high and very profitable for farmers, because it coincides with the harvest.
Farmers in Sigi Regency are still dependent on these export commodities. Cocoa is still the prime commodity of Sigi farmers and other farmers throughout the Central Sulawesi region.
While the Chairperson of the Central Sulawesi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Achrul Udaya, said that cocoa a few years ago was listed as the largest leading non-oil and gas export commodity in the region. Cocoa in its heyday was always in the top rank of foreign exchange earnings.
The realization of cocoa exports in the 1990s to 2000s produced an average of US $ 300 million in foreign exchange. Even the price of cocoa in the local market had reached IDR 35,000 per kg during the monetary crisis in 1998 – 1999.
When the price of cocoa was high in the market, many farmers in Central Sulawesi suddenly became suddenly rich. Besides being able to buy car vehicles, many of them use money to go on Hajj.
Central Sulawesi farmers’ cocoa beans are exported directly from the Pantoloan Port of Palu to various countries in Asia and Europe and the United States.
Achrul, who is also the Secretary of the Central Kalimantan Apindo DPD, said that cocoa remained a prime commodity for farmers.
But unfortunately, he said, since the last few years, exporters in this area no longer export cocoa beans directly from Pantoloan Port.
Cocoa beans produced by Central Sulawesi farmers are now being sold out in areas such as Makassar and Surabaya. Another part is the best quality fermented cocoa beans for the raw material for the chocolate industry in the City of Palu.
In Palu, there is currently a chocolate house managed by the Central Sulawesi Provincial Industry and Trade Office.
The presence of a chocolate house is enough to help farmers sell directly cocoa beans that have gone through the correct fermensai system and the price is much higher than other cocoa beans. The price of quality cocoa beans purchased by chocolate houses ranges from Rp. 35,000 per kg.
Data from the Central Sulawesi Provincial Plantation Office said that the Central Sulawesi farmers’ cocoa production had been at a position of 250,000 tons per year.
However, in recent years, cocoa production has dropped quite dramatically. In 2016, Central Sulawesi’s cocoa production was around 160,000 tons with an area of approximately 200,000 hectares of cocoa land. The spread of cocoa plants in Central Sulawesi is spread in 13 districts and cities.
The highest area of cocoa production in Parigi Moutong Regency reached 69,000 tons, following Donggala Regency with around 22,000 tons and Sigi District with 19,000 tons.