There is growing demand for dark, fine and organic cacao and chocolate made at the source, particularly from Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. These countries developed a global reputation for higher flavor and more unique, rare cacao bean chocolate.
However, a major issue is that the fair trade cacao monetary return does not adequately reflect a proper premium for the farmers, despite consumer willingness to support products that are environmentally and socially conscious.
Producers and researchers around the world said recently that there was strong demand and rising sales for premium dark and/or organic chocolate products coming from the U.S., Brazil, Europe,Scandinavia, Russia, India, China and Australia, despite rising prices in late 2013 due to poor weather conditions.
In terms of volume, around 70 percent of the world’s cocoa production comes from The
Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa, also from Nigeria and Ghana, followed by Brazil.
In Ecuador, as a result of farmer education and government programs to boost tree plantings, production outstripped Brazil in 2013. Cocoa-bean output rose 13% last year to 220,000 metric tons and Ecuador is poised to become the world’s fourth biggest producer by 2015, according to Ivan Ontaneda, president of Ecuador’s National Cocoa Exporters Association (Anecacao).
Ecuador was the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans until the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the Latin America country is the world’s major grower of cacao beans used in premium and organic dark chocolate and is seeing growing demand from Europe, Asia and Latin America, according to Santiago Peralta, co-founder of Pacari Chocolate.
Despite Ecuador having gained a lot of recognition for its fine chocolate, fine cocoa production is limited, so prices for Ecuador’s cocoa are going to increase, Mr Peralta said. He expects Pacari’s sales to increase its 20% growth rate last year as consumers become more concerned about flavor, growers’ labor conditions and sustainable farming practices.
The price of the country’s beans may also triple in coming years as economic growth raises global demand for gourmet foods. With more supply of dark, organic Latin American premium chocolate growth deserves fair prices chocolate, there is also the need to increase real fair trade in the cacao sector.
“Fair trade cacao prices do not really reflect a premium for the work of the farmers. What is a mere 6% premium on a commodity that already has been pressed to keep low value?” Mr Peralta added. “That price structure does not allow farmers to live under real fair conditions.”
Pacari is not only organic but Demeter certified, pays up to 50% over the cacao price and gets the farmers involved in the development of the line from soil and tree to bean entirely made in Ecuador. “We work directly with the farmers. We know their needs and problems and together we find the solutions.” Once, Peralta discouraged a farmer from selling his small farm to move into the city, because of back pain problems. Instead, Peralta suggested that he buy a donkey and offered him the money. Other farmers started introducing donkeys and the use of smaller bags to make the physical work easier to all, including women, who Peralta finds are more responsible with money. “Little changes make great impact in the community and identifying what needs to change is the result of constant communication with the farmers, who are our associates and have made our project and model for fair trade possible”.
The success of Pacari Chocolate and the establishment of other Ecuadorian chocolate makers like Kallari, Republica del Cacao and Hoja Verde, and the growing demand for fine dark chocolate recently have gained attention from large media. Mr Peralta told BBC last year that the quality of Ecuador’s chocolate is due to the country’s diversity in terrain and location on the equator; travel writer Adam Graham visited Pacari and the cacao growing region and his report was featured in the Wall Street Journal last fall. www.oprah.com of media guru Oprah Winfrey highlighted Pacari Lemongrass Chocolate Bar, and during an interview with The Korea Times Mr. Peralta, while at the Salon du Chocolat in the Asian country, said that he wanted Ecuador to be known as a cacao producer and a world-class chocolate maker. “The media helps to increase consumer awareness about the meaning of real chocolate taste and quality, but also how it has to be produced under a system of real fair trade,” Mr. Peralta told OWN.
Currently, the dynamic Ecuadorian fine chocolate maker is working with the farmers in its network to obtain the Small Producers Certification, launched last year by small producers in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Small Producers SPP symbol represents sustainable
production, a self managed local economy that is empowered dramatically and implies fair trade.
In January 2013, Mr Peralta and Pacari Chocolate were recognized as Outstanding Fine Chocolate Maker by the Fine Chocolate Industry Association. And the Quitobased producer was in 2012 and again in 2013 the overall World Winner for dark chocolate. Pacari received
six of the 10 gold and one silver medal for dark chocolate at the 2013 International Chocolate Awards World Final held in London last fall. “We are pleased to see things are changing in the cacao industry. It just did not make sense that previous generations of cocoa bean producers never had the chance to enjoy the taste of a chocolate bar”, said Mr Peralta. That is changing among the new wave of fine chocolate makers like Pacari. Firms such as Francheschi from Venezuela and Orquidea from Peru are being encouraged to present their own lines at international events like the Salon du Chocolat in Paris and London. The Fine Chocolate Industry Association Excellence Awards and the International Chocolate Awards are opportunities to show top brands of fine dark chocolate made at the source.