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Whyanbeel Valley Estate

Angelo Puglisi & Gerard Puglisi

“Our family’s Whyanbeel Valley Estate is nestled in the Whyanbeel Valley on the edge of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, about 25 minute’s drive north of Port Douglas.

It’s an idyllic spot. To reach it you follow a meandering road past cane farms, clear-water creeks, tropical fruit farms and gardens. As you get closer you’ll see the impressive High Falls cascading down the hillside above.

Whyanbeel Valley Estate has been in the Puglisi family for three generations, more than 70 years. The next generation – my kids – are keen to carry on the tradition.

Almost the whole time our family has had this property, we’ve farmed sugarcane.  Cocoa is a fairly new addition, but certainly one that’s working for us. The decision to grow cocoa trees came when cane farming was going through a tough time.

The price of sugar dropped, farmers started selling and the region began losing cane land to housing subdivisions. That experience gave us incentive to spread ourselves more broadly and not just rely on cane.

My dad made the decision to get into cocoa and the rest of the family agreed. That was about four years ago. Last year we got a crop of about eight tons from our 1,800 trees. We’re currently picking again now and are on track to get an even better harvest this year.

Our success so far has a lot to do with the mix of good rainfall, alluvial soils and the modern agricultural practices here in Australia. The research team who chose this spot for cocoa really did their homework.

Today, our 1.8ha cocoa plantation sits on a gentle, well-drained slope. It is irrigated from the sparkling Whyanbeel Creek and surrounded by lush vegetation which offers natural protection from sun and damaging winds.

Sugarcane still makes up about 98 percent of our income but the balance with cocoa is very good. We’re kept busy with cocoa until August then the cane season starts in earnest.

So cocoa is a good fit for us, especially because our pods are processed into chocolate using local Mossman sugar. The arrangement is made even better because we are also part owners of the company. All this together makes Daintree Estates a perfect fit for our pocket of Far North Queensland.”

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