Cacao in Talamanca, as well as the rest of Costa Rica, has been completely geared for "volume production" of a forestero cacao to be sold to mid and large size chocolate makers. Because of this model, the small cacao farmer has learned to cater to these type of cacao buyers. This old model is based on volume rather than quality. As a result the cacao producers often harvest their cacao, remove the seeds from the pods, and sell it in "baba" as they call it here (baba mean drool). Maybe appropriate name for the gooey mess as well as for the foolishness of loosing a ton of value added.
This old model has made it easy and fairly risk free for indigenous people, not knowing any better, to gather fruit and sell it without fermenting and drying the cacao.
If you are reading these blogs, you probably know that the whole cacao market is changing and there is a new "niche" of cacao buyers who are interested in high quality cacao for making bean-to-bar chocolate in small micro factories all over the world. These buyers, Caribeans included, want to see producers making top quality cacao and earning a just living on their labor.
"My people perish for a lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6
Let's do the math! Wet organic cacao is being sold at a "fair trade" price for $0.60 per kilo. It takes about 300 fruit pods to make 25 kilos of wet cacao. The smallest recommended batch to ferment is 25 kilos of wet cacao which will produce 10 kilos of fermented and dried cacao. Caribeans is currently paying about $4.50 per kilo of top quality fermented and dried cacao. That means that if the producer knows how to properly process their cacao, on 300 fruit pods they can earn $45 per batch in place of $15.
So what does this all mean? I have been "advised" by a couple of long time residents in the area to buy the cacao wet and process it myself. Doing the math, I clearly would be making more value added on the cacao and the quality would be dependent on my standard. But what does that mean for the producer? Simply by not knowing the process of fermenting and drying, there is a potential loss of value of $3 per kilo.
That doesn't sound very fair trade does in? Caribeans is dedicated to showing family producers the value added they can achieve simply by doing two more of the steps and focusing on quality rather than volume.. This is what our micro-sourcing project is all about. It is not enough just to pay a little more than the next guy. Our greatest investment is knowledg
"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will feed his family for a lifetime. " ~ unknown
Chocolate Diaries from the Caribeans Bean-To-Bar chocolate maker..