South Pacific cocoa growers rate their own beans
Thursday, 08 November 2012 10:28
November 2012

Caption: A participating cocoa grower is pictured at the entrance of the Cocoa Growers Association of Vanuatu.

How many cocoa growers have tasted chocolate made from their beans? With assistance from two Australian chocolate companies, the Pacific Agribusiness Research for Development Initiative (*PARDI) cocoa project recently produced single origin chocolate bars from samples collected throughout Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, allowing farmers to taste the fruits of their labour for the first time.

“This exercise was designed to create interest among cocoa buyers and to help growers from the region understand how processing techniques and genetic varieties contribute to superior flavour, and in particular how superior flavour is in demand for use in premium quality chocolate manufacture,” explained Tim Martyn, agribusiness economist from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (*SPC).

“Participating growers were given the opportunity to compare chocolate made from their beans (comprising 75% cocoa, 25% cane sugar) with chocolate made from beans across their country, other Pacific Island countries, Africa and South America.”

Prior to the testing, growers were briefed on how to identify product defects and their causes and to better understand elements that result in distinctive chocolate tastes: smoke taint, over- or under-fermentation, mould, sun drying, and the internationally-popular Criollo cacao variety.

“Economics formed a big part of the process. The market prices paid for beans was discussed and growers were given data which shows that cocoa buyers pay two to three times the world price for good beans due to the artisanal (hand-crafted) chocolate movement gathering momentum, resulting in  increasing competition for premium beans,” Tim said.

The new-found interest in South Pacific beans is something that could eventually result in cocoa sourced from the region finding a place on the world map as premium grade for the first time and could double grower income for farmers able to meet the quality standards required by this section of the market.

For growers not able to meet premium standard, the PARDI project will assist them to establish direct purchasing relationships with processors in Asia. This alone would have the potential to increase current income by 10 to 30 per cent.

With further training and awareness building, producers identified the processing improvements that could be made to improve quality and price through access to premium markets. The Vanuatu Department of Industry aims to move 20% of Vanuatu cocoa beans into premium markets by the end of the PARDI cocoa project.

To read more about this project, click on the following link to a recent feature story published in the University of Adelaide’s e Science magazine: http://www.sciences.adelaide.edu.au/e-science/

Background

* PARDI Scientists undertake supply-chain and market-driven research to identify constraints that impede local economic development. Research is aimed at achieving tangible solutions, such as new skills for locals, new technologies and product options. PARDI research incorporates over 20 research projects.

*SPC is an international organisation that works in public health, geoscience, agriculture, forestry, water resources, disaster management, fisheries, education (community, TVET, quality and standards for all school levels), statistics, transport, energy, ICT, media, human rights, gender, youth and culture to help Pacific Island people achieve sustainable development.

For more information contact:

Tim Martyn:

Project Leader

E: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Julie Lloyd:

PARDI Communications

M: 0415 799 890