This week started out at the airport en route to Quillabamba in a region called La Convencion. TechnoServe (TNS) is evaluating the prospects for a fine cocoa project in the region; they asked me to assess the challenges & potential, and outline a proposal for development of the overlooked market. Currently, the fine cocoa beans are sold at a discount to bulk priced cocoa beans due to lack of proper processing and separation. I spent a night in Cuzco on the way, a well-known hub to reach some of Peru’s treasured ruins, including Macchu Pichu.

Quillabamba is about a 5 hour drive from Cuzco, and I arrived mid-day on Tuesday in time to get acquainted with some of the key people and information about the fine cocoa (called cacao chuncho). Over the course of a couple days we met with key municipal officials in Quillabamba and Echarati, several cocoa growers, and managers of some organizations along the cocoa value chain. It became pretty apparent that the lack of quality assurance was preventing the fine cocoa market from developing, and I proposed value chain and pricing concepts to help bring the premium beans to market at a premium price.

One of the highlights of my trip was Friday evening at a fortuitously timed cocoa festival. We were chatting with a long-time farmer in the region, an expert in cocoa genetics and growing. Once he found out that I was with an NGO looking at a cocoa project in the region, he expressed frustration that his premium cocoa beans weren’t being properly commercialized, and proceeded to describe how it could work. Most of his suggestions lined up with the plan I had already outlined, so it was very satisfying to hear this support from one of the more seasoned and ambitious farmers.

The Volunteer

Don Suskind

SVP, Head of ETF Product Management Newport Beach, California

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