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Vice President’s closing remarks for chocolate festival

On behalf of the President and the Autonomous Bougainville Government I want to warmly congratulate everyone who has made this year’s Bougainville Chocolate Festival such a resounding success.

Cocoa is a significant primary industry in Bougainville and the festival is evidence of just how far the industry as evolved and is adding value to the Bougainville economy. 

As you are all aware, the impact of the Bougainville crisis meant that Bougainville’s capacity to produce cocoa became significantly diminished.  I am pleased that through the hard work of local farmers and the support of our partners that the industry is today again flourishing.  Bougainville produces what is arguably the best cocoa in the world and by enhancing production and building economic productivity, we are showcasing to the world just how good our cocoa product is.

This year’s festival very much builds on the momentum of the first Bougainville Chocolate Festival that was held in 2016.  By hosting this event, Bougainville is increasing both national and international coverage of our resurgent cocoa production.  For the Government, this is a great opportunity as it allows us to showcase our growing cocoa capacity which in turn is enabling economic growth and bringing real benefits to our farmers and their families.

At the same time, the Festival aims to create opportunities to grow Bougainville’s cocoa industry.  The Festival has brought together farmers, industry partners and international experts.  In doing so, it is playing an important role in enhancing links both locally and globally, which is in turn boosting cocoa production and helping to build the broader economy. The Festival is also creating opportunities for industry representatives to identify single source suppliers from across Bougainville and through this, enhancing the economic base of the industry.

For the Government, we very much support the Cocoa Industry.  We see cocoa production and the work of our farmers as being critical to Bougainville’s long term economic future.  As we strive to cement autonomy arrangements and as we continue on the path to fiscal self-reliance, the work of cocoa farmers is making a genuine and real difference.  As Vice President I commend all farmers that are here today for your hard work and dedication to the growth of the industry.

At the same time, the Government with our partners is committed to promoting best practice farming and production.  This means working with farmers to provide education on safe farming practices and promoting innovation to enhance production.  This work is already showing strong results, and through programmes such as the Australian and New Zealand Government funded Commodity Support facility and those of our other development partners, we are seeing real benefits starting to flow through.  This in turn is having a real and lasting impact on individuals, families and the broader community.

Of course, as a Government we also recognise the need to ensure that we have in place the best possible economic enablers to allow our farmers to get their product to market.  That is why we are working with our partners to fund new and better roads and to enhance infrastructure to increase the timely delivery of harvests.  While we still have some way to go, I am very confident that in the coming years we will build on the gains that we have made to date to make the industry even more responsive and economically competitive on a global scale.

As the Bougainville Cocoa industry continues to grow this will present opportunities to further market Bougainville to the world.  Through the delivery of a best practice and world class product, the reputation of Bougainville and Bougainville Cocoa will continue to grow.  As Vice President this gives me great pride as we strive to promote the many great wonders of Bougainville to the world.

In that context, the I am pleased to note that Government welcomes investment and I am pleased to be able to say that Bougainville is very much open for business.  We now have a safe and stable business environment and I encourage those considering investing in the Bougainville Cocoa Industry to do so.  You will not be disappointed.  Bougainville has much to offer and through enhanced investment and sustained economic growth we can ensure that the industry provides for generations of families to come.

To conclude, I want to thank the organisers of the Festival.  The past two days have been an outstanding success and I thank each of you for your hard work in ensuring that the Festival ran so smoothly.  I also thank our judges for making the trip to Arawa and contributing to the success of this important event.

I look forward to next Bougainville Chocolate Festival in 2018.   Until then I again thank all of you for your contribution and attendance. 

I now formally declare the 2017 Bougainville Chocolate Festival closed.  May God bless you all and ensure that everyone has a safe trip home.

Thank you. 

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