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Hey I was wondering if anybody has any experiences they can share regarding purchasing cacao beans direct from growers. Mostly I'm wondering about people who have purchased hobbyist quantities (20kg or less) direct from growers or grower co-ops while they are visiting another country.  Are there generally opportunities for this, or is the volume so low as to be non-existent?  Also what sort of constraints are there bringing beans back into the US? Are such small quantities negligible or do they require some sort of registration? Do people generally ship them back or do they take them on the plane? I wouldn't fly to another country simply to buy small quantities of beans. However, I occasionally have friends traveling that could be convinced to make a stop at a cacao farm here or there.

-Thanks!

Tags: beans, cacao, farm, purchasing, travel

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Hello Borncamp,

I run a small cacao sourcing company here in Nicaragua, and we have been happy to host several visits over the past few months here. We have also been sending cacao air freight to the States and Europe in small lots (180-500 kilos). While not super cheap, I feel it has been reasonable ($1.68 per kilo shipping to Ohio was our last shipment). If you are interested, please let me know and we'll see what we can do.

Gifford Laube

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Hi, I have taken small quantities in personal baggage (-5kg) of dried beans for our own use across from Central America (Honduras, Belize, Guatemala) to the USA, or through USA and to Europe, which involves exactly the same US Customs control in either case.

Authorities, as far as I understand from speaking to them frankly,  are concerned with live material. A dry cacao bean, can of beans, or a roasted peanut are of no concern.

If it is not you going to purchase the beans, ensure that your friends understand that the beans must be sufficiently dry, free of insects and free of any trace of mould to be of use to you and to be allowed into another country. The criteria is the same.

Live material would be mould or insects, not just live beans. The smaller the quantity the easier it is to verify the beans are free of them.  On a very few occasions I have found mould occurring on inspection before departing and had to discard the beans: I recommend always doing a last-minute inspection before packing.

If in any doubt contact the US customs direct for advice.

Regarding purchasing beans it is a general question and I'd say in general yes it's very easily possible and the smaller the quantity the less advance notice or organising required.

I have brought back a couple of kilos of dried beans from the Dominican Republic to the US, but mostly paste which whatever I could fit into the check-on suitcases.  The weight limit is what prohibits bringing back any real quantity.  Going on vacation and sourcing good beans is an entirely different issue.  You could wander out to the areas where cacao is grown, but good luck in finding fermented beans.  You may have to go on some kind of tour and maybe you would be able to access something that has been handled properly during and after harvest. 

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