With funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), University of Southern Mindanao (USM) launched the Cacao R&D Center on August 27, 2021, as part of the Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) program.
The NICER Program, under the DOST’s Science for Change Program, aims to improve regional research in higher education institutions (HEIs) and therefore creates equal research and development capabilities in every region of the country.
The Cacao R&D Center is expected to address challenges affecting the cacao industry and hopes to increase supply amidst increasing global and local demand for cacao beans and byproducts.
Being the center for genetic diversity of cacao in the Philippines, USM has been addressing problems in the cacao industry such as low-quality bean product and lack of standard agricultural processes for cacao production and postharvest.
The three-year NICER program for Cacao will provide interventions in cacao production and processing to give access to quality planting materials and improve the quality of cacao beans and its products.
According to Dr. Edward Barlaan, program leader and USM Vice President for R&D and Extension, the Cacao R&D center in USM will serve as a training site for cacao production, processing, product development, and marketing. This will also be the source of breeding and experimental materials for cacao R&D and clones for reproduction and multiplication.
Cacao production and profitability are expected to increase with the research on innovative processing approaches of cacao beans. The USM cacao gene bank will be upgraded for conservation, rehabilitation, and utilization in cacao varietal improvement.
Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for R&D and Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora, Executive Director of DOST- Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) expressed their support to USM and congratulated the team for spearheading the virtual launching.
Dr. Francisco Gil N. Garcia, President of USM, also attended as well as Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Evelyn G. Laviñia. R&D Partners from DOST including DOST-PCAARRD, DA-Bureau of Plant Industry Regional Offices, and cacao stakeholders from SUCs and private sectors were also present.