By Yvette Tan

In Part 1, cacao farmer Grover Rosit of Rosit Cacao Farms shared his journey from mailman to farmer, and offered some tips on growing cacao as well. Here, he discusses how he’s able to add to his income by developing value-added products and opening his farm to various opportunities.

Value added products mean added income

Rosit also ventured into value-added products to increase the potential of his harvest, not to mention earn additional income. Turning a crop into a value-added product means processing it into a product with a higher value when sold. To do this, Rosit tapped experts in the private sector, as well as government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture RFU XI, the City Agriculturist, PhilMec, DOST, and DTI, all of who have programs dedicated to small and medium businesses.

“We ventured to value-adding production because of a mission of exploring the potential of cacao. Just like a coconut tree, cacao is also a tree of life where no parts are being put into waste. It was made possible because of the cooperating researchers and agencies who creatively conduct experiments right in our farm using the machines and technologies they provided to us,” Rosit said.

Cacao can be made into many kinds of value-added products, including cacao vinegar. Turning a crop into a value-added product can increase its market value.

“Now we can produce jam, wine and vinegar from the juice of cacao, cacao flour using cacao placenta, organic fertilizer from pods and leaves, briquettes or uling from shredded pods, fossilized leaves use for handicrafts, and many more.”

He further stated that, “value-added production can add three times to at most five times to your profit.”

Fortunately, cacao is one of those products that can be easy to market. After all, who can say no to chocolate? “It’s not also hard to market cacao products because there is a very high deficit of supply. Just make sure that you only produce high quality cacao products by applying good agricultural practices or protocol of cacao production,” he said.

Using the farm for more than just planting

He turned his farm into a “value-added product” as well in 2018 by opening it to the public for farm tours and as a center for learning the ins and outs of cacao cultivation and production. Under Cacao Prince Consultancy, he also offers consultancy services for nursery establishment, technical assistance, and farm evaluation, and also has grafters for hire.

“With that, the market just came in. There were even many times that our customers demanded more of our products beyond our capacity. There are even times we cannot meet their demand, because it’s just too high. Until now I can’t believe that all of these are all happening, but it’s real,” Rosit said. “However, we considered it as an opportunity to expand more so we can continue to contribute to the lacking supply of the growing demand of the market of cacao- local, national and international.”

Marketing is also important so that his farm is top of mind when it comes to cacao. “We also join cacao trade fairs and cacao conferences to showcase our products and services. We have brochures, business cards, and also we utilize the power of social media and digital marketing. By it, we are able to reach more customers outside Davao, even abroad,” he shared.

Grover Rosit shares his knowledge on cultivating cacao with farm visitors.

Through this model of cultivating cacao, making value-added products, opening his farm to the public as a tourism site and learning center, and utilizing face-to-face and online methods of marketing, Rosit has managed to reach a variety of clients both locally and overseas.

“Most of our customers are nursery operators, chocolatiers, private small cacao farmers, affiliate marketers, foreign tourist, retails stores, cacao farmers associations, and cooperatives. I discover them through cacao conferences, via the internet, cacao training, seminars, and [through] allocating budget for advertising like social media marketing,” he said.

Reaping profits from cacao farming

According to an article from the Philippine News Agency, a farmer has the potential to make as much as P100,000 to P150,000 per hectare, with dried beans currently going for P120-150/ kg when sold to cacao processors.

Rosit declined to state his income, though he demurely said that, “It’s really a good [source of]  income for farmers. They can really send their children to college even on a one hectare cacao farm.”

The former mailman added that, “One of the greatest blessings I received from God through cacao farming is that it supported all my 6 children to finish their college. I am also thankful that one of my daughters finished medicine and she is now a practicing physician. Now all of them are working professionals and running their own business. Not only that, my farm now has been a great help to my fellow farmers to have their own successful cacao farms. I share with them all my experiences, observations, practices and my planting materials.”

Aside from training future cacao farmers, Rosit also tries to give back to the community by providing free cacao seedlings to farmers after calamities such as after Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. “We sent free cacao seedlings to the affected areas to rebuild the farms of the farmers. Now they are already reaping their harvest,” he said.

The Philippine cacao industry through the years

Having been a cacao farmer for more than three decades, Rosit has seen the industry change in terms of demand, farming techniques, marketing strategies, and everything in between.

When he started farming, there were no training centers or farmers’ groups dedicated to cacao, so he had to rely on experimentation. As a self-taught farmer, a lot of his techniques are the result of trial and error. “Today, farmers are now lucky because there are already available cacao training that they can attend,” he said. “…there are a lot of programs in the government, even from private companies that help farmers financially, such as what is being offered by Landbank and other programs of the Department of Agriculture.”

32 years after the first tree was planted, Rosit Cacao Farms continues to stand strong. “One of our future plans is to create a centralized network of nursery farms and training centers all over the regions so we can accommodate farmers across the nation with the best cacao ecosystem that we have and supply them with the highest quality cacao planting materials from Rosit Cacao Farms,” Rosit says.

“We also plan to create a special training mentorship program for the next cacao agripreneurs of our country, the millennials.We are now also working on improving our products and services so we can supply the best cacao experience to our customers and reach more farmers to get the quality cacao ecosystem that we can offer.”

Grover Rosit’s story shows that with perseverance and willingness to experiment and adapt, farming can be a good source of income. “I just started with only a few trees, and added them little by little, considering I have six children to raise and support. As long as you are being creative, there will always be ways to overcome challenges,” he said.

Aside from this, becoming a cacao farmer also enabled him to retire early at age 50. As Rosit said, “It happened to me, [so] it can also happen to other fellow farmers.”

For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/rositcacaofarms/

Photos courtesy of Grover Rosit.

This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July to August 2020 issue.