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By Moffat Mamu

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 5) – The Solomon Islands needs to grow more cocoa to ensure an increase production for export.

Dennis Pople, Director of an Australian-based cocoa buyer firm, the Holland’s Commodities International Limited, made this comment during a brief visit to the first cocoa project funded by his company for the Tenaru Secondary School yesterday.

[PIR editor’s note: Tenaru is located in the northwest region of Guadalcanal island where the capital city of Honiara is situated.]

The project, to help the Catholic run school earn extra revenue, started off in July with the planting of the first hectares.

Pople’s son planted the first seedlings to mark the start of the project. Yesterday was the first time for him to see how the project had progressed.

Under the project Holland’s Commodities International provided seedlings and tools worth SB$200,000 [US$28,600] that enabled the school to kick off the project.

Dennis and another colleague, Chris Holland, who buys copra from the country both arrived in the country Tuesday last week to visit the family of late Gabriel Doli, their close associate.

They visited the project site yesterday hours before they flew back to Australia.

The plants, which are about a foot high, are healthy.

The pilot project is the start of many more similar projects the company is planning to assist with the schools around the country that are keen in starting a cocoa project.

Dennis said Solomon Islands is rich with land and good weather. With the success of the Tenaru based project since the last four months, the Director said he sees no reason why people in the Solomons should not grow copra.

He said people should start growing cocoa because it can earn more revenue for the country over the years.

With the country now recovering, he wants to see more Solomon Islanders planting cocoa because his company buys about 80-85 percent of the country’s cocoa exports.

At the project site Mr. Pople congratulated the school for their willingness to be recipient of the project that will determine the company’s continuous assistance to other schools in the country in the coming years.

He was overwhelmed and repeatedly told the School’s Principal Cornelius Sadatakabatu that the project is fantastic.

According to Moses Pelomo of the Commodities Exporting Market Authority the aim of the project is for the country to increase cocoa production for export, which in turn, can contribute to the revenue earning of the country.

Not only that but it can contribute to the practical aspect of the students’ learning skills so that once they returned back to their villages they are equipped with the knowledge to grow and harvest cocoa.

Tenaru had about 100 hectares of land and plans are to have 20 hectares of land planted with cocoa for the next three years.

With that lot, the school expects to rake in a net profit of SB$200,000 [US$28,600] annually from their dried export beans.

The school is expected to build a dry processing unit to cater for the drying of cocoa beans for export purposes.

Apart from cocoa, the school had also been implementing projects on cattle, rice and vegetables, which helped to finance its operation

The school expects to harvest the first lot of cocoa pods in three years time and expect to reap some few thousands of dollars from it.

December 6, 2005

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