Pingtung to establish cocoa promotion center
With the permission of the Diocese of Kaohsiung, an abandoned Catholic church in Wanluan Township is to be refurbished and turned into a promotional center for the local cocoa industry, the county's Department of Hakka Affairs said recently.
A project jointly funded by Pingtung County government and the Hakka Affairs Council, the center will be the first of its kind in Taiwan.
The project's groundbreaking ceremony will take place Sunday with the center expected to be operational by August, the department said.
Cocoa trees, which thrive in hot and rainy tropical areas, mainly grow in regions spanning 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. In Taiwan, cocoa trees are predominantly cultivated by Hakka communities in townships across Pingtung, including Wanluan, Neipu, Jhutian, Jiadung, Shinpi, Changjhih and Gaushu.
Cocoa plantation can also be found in some non-Hakka communities, in townships such as Jiuru and Ligang.
According to the Department of Hakka Affairs, about 200 hectares of farmland in the county are dedicated to the crop.
In addition, the county's cocoa industry has experienced a boom in recent years after chocolate made from cocoa grown in the region received many accolades, due to its perfect geography and climate.
In 2017 and 2018, Pingtung-based chocolate makers, including Fu Wan Chocolate, won gold and silver medals for their dark/plain chocolate at the International Chocolate Awards which is held annually in different locations around the world.
According to the Hakka affairs department, the county is hoping to win the right to host the next Asia Pacific Competition leg of the International Chocolate Awards in Pingtung later this year.
The center, once completed, will assist the local cocoa industry through marketing, as well as helping to promote local Hakka culture and tourism, it said.