Few sweets are as universally loved as chocolate. And industry analysts say the demand, especially in emerging markets in Asia, is rising fast.
That is great news for cocoa-producing nations like Brazil. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.
On the cacao trees plantation in the state of Para, in the Brazilian Amazon, is where chocolate begins.
Harvesting the cocoa is an all-manual operation. From picking the fruits and cutting them one by one; to extracting the pulp, and above all, the seeds from which chocolate is ultimately made.
The Sitio Ascurra farm has 50,000 cacao trees with a yearly output of almost 100,000 metric tons of cocoa beans.
“There is always a market for cocoa. Sometimes not at its best price, but if you have a bag of cocoa you can certainly sell it anytime,” said Robson Brogni, the Farm Manager. “It can be stocked also – you don’t have to sell it right after harvest – so it’s also possible to wait for a better price, if that’s the case. Our next task here in our region is to invest in more quality and better varieties to make fine chocolates.”
Cacao seeds are sun-dried for a few days and turned periodically for an even process that renders them into cocoa beans. They are then laid to rest in covered storage before being packed and shipped for final processing. Most go to chocolate factories but other customers include businesses in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.
Demand for chocolate has been growing worldwide and is expected to continue on this path over the coming years. Brazilian producers are hoping and preparing to reap the benefits of this trend and have been looking to China as one of their most promising markets.
New techniques to increased yields and quality are currently being studied at the experimental plantation and laboratories of the government’s Executive Committee for Cocoa Culture or CEPLAC. The center is housed in the state of Para, which has recently become Brazil’s main producer of cocoa.
“The world cocoa market has been growing a lot. World chocolate processors say in the next 5 years there will be an additional demand for one million metric tons of cocoa beans and they don’t know where it will come from,” said Fernando Mendes, the Head of Research at CEPLAC.
Adding value to production is another challenge. A group of growers in the Para region created a cooperative to develop their own brand of chocolate. Cacauway is still a relatively small operation but it has already opened eight shops in three Brazilian states- profiting the cocoa growers who joined the venture early on.
“We have been trying to show producers that joining forces, for example, in a cooperative is the best way to improve our production,” said Jorge Kawai, the President of Cacauway Cooperative.
Cocoa producers in Para trust in the power of people’s sweet tooth — and hope their love for chocolate will bring profits and development to this region for years to come.