I enjoyed your photo essay on Madagascar. I'm a bean producer in Brazil and have a keen interest in how they are produced in other parts of the world.
It was an eye opener to see the methods used to transport, clean and store cocoa beans. Madagascar is obviously far behind Brazil in social and economic development. To see six women hand sorting and cleaning cacao is far from a reality in Brazil. I prepared several tons of beans for a client using this method and took a bath in labor costs. We have since installed machines that originally were designed for coffee. There were design changes and some long hours of adjustment but most of the grading is now mechanized.
Was the site you photographed a co-operative? It seemed like a very large operation for a single farmstead in Madagascar. Who and how do they maintain quality control of the processes?
Again, very good photos and much insight in another part of the cocoa world.
You are right. Madagascar is a county in free fall at the monent and the locals will do ANYTHING to earn a few pesos. (read Euros). Not only that but the beans are mixed at source so no one knows if its Forestero / Crilollo, Trinitario or what the hell goes on. Some co-ops wash after fermentation, most don't, I did see a sorting machine but as you can see it was used for a cloths horse. The pics are from Millot SA (the big ones) the smaller are from small farmers. Quality control???? whats that? but the beans are amongst the best in the world - as you know!
Thanks very much for answering some questions that have long plagued me. I was very surprised at the photo of the bean separator. It looks like a pre WW2 device but I take my hat off for them. There is a true recognition that sorting is required. In Brazil I only know of one other farmer that is using any type of size grading.
The entire cocoa industry is in free fall. It was precarious before the world economic crash and now is a disaster. Since beans are priced in dollars or pounds on an international market, the 3rd world has really taken a pounding. The exchange rate for dollars and Brazilian Reais has fallen 40% in the last 18 months and prices of cacau in local currencies has rock bottomed. We just had presidential elections which included promises to raise salaries. If the promises are met, salaries and legislated benefits will rise to US$600 per month per worker. Unless cocoa prices rise, i see a disaster in Brazil's cocoa industry.
Thanks again for your time and good luck with your chocolate enterprises.
It 'is' an unmitigated disaster zone. I agree. Problem is will people pay more than $3.7/100g for premium chocolate. But there will always be people willing to work for nothing the more hungry they get and the capitalist system depends on that.... In fact when I returned from Madagascar I could quite easily have given up eating chocolate altogether (I'm already a vegetarian). Things affect me that badly. But the reality is that CHOCOLATE RULES. No matter what! Tell you what Jim. send me your email address and I will send you some pictures I didnt put on the web...