The Chocolate Life

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The perspective from a Producer's Country: GUATEMALA, by the way I'm new here....

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Juan Francisco Mollinedo and I am the Vice President of the Asociación Nacional del Kakaw, ANAKAKAW in Guatemala, an organization devoted to rescue the kakaw crop and industry and turn it into an example of excellence and quality.

I've been working in many cacao projects with REAL producers trying to rescue and develop a real business for the producers with a national vision and a well designed road map for our Mayan Kakaw, which, by the way, is in decline. We are working hard and learning as much as we can from cacao academics and well known researchers around the World, often silently. We also work with national researchers and experts in two Universities and many Research Centers in Guatemala. The other engine behind this effort is the local entrepreneurs, which are risking hard money investing in the development of the national fine and flavour cacao and chocolate industry and trying to offer a great product in the process, though, we are still a VERY small industry, being an example the colleague and chocolatier Carlos Eichenberger of Danta Chocolate.

I took a whole day to read as much as possible the opinions and ideas regarding good, tasty and fine chocolate, and how to make this business more "Fair". It came to my attention the awareness and concern of many of you regarding a better deal for the small producers. That alone speak volumes of the human quality of this chocolate community.

Nevertheless, It's funny to see a lot opinions regarding "Fair Trade" with long and well articulated and well meant ideas from chocolate people in the consumer countries, but NOBODY offers REAL partnership (Yes, I mean offer stock holding positions) in the industry of the consumer countries, that would be REAL FAIR TRADE. I've read a lot regarding if this FT label is good or not, or at least doing the job more than the other one...Well, THEY ARE NOT DOING ANY GOOD AT ALL !!! None. At least in my Country.

My fellow colleagues, the producers do not receive ANY hard benefit from the Fair Trade, and socially responsability certification industry. it's a business in which they sell the producers hopes and promises...and Political ideology...I must say. When I enquire regarding who's behind these certifications (I mean researchers and academics) the question is answered with silence and more NGO's mostly from Europe with nothing to do with quality cacao. So no science and technlogy behind them.

I usually make ironic jokes regarding the Agribusiness in Central America (and the rest of Latin America): We were historical price takers. Now, we are certification takers...of course, from the developed world (as always has been the case) . That makes us a kind of second class "partners" the chocolate industry, Even, I've heard comments that we are too dumb to understand the technology behind good chocolate, too under developed to have our own industry. But even funnier than those comments is the fact that many well known cocoa experts and researchers are from this very side of the world !!

We, as producer countries in Latin America, are witnessing a new "movement" to take away well researched ideas and proposals regarding Terroirs, genetic quality and quality post harvesting practices and sustitute them with taste wheels and subjective ideas on how to define good chocolate. This has yet to be well researched, be thoroughtly discussed and then accepted. Like a responsable business community.

Well, there is NO absolut truth on this...yet. We producers and small entrepreneurs witness much arrogance in claims here and there regarding quality. There are well known researchers doing great efforts to understand how variety and subject genetics, terroir structure, post harvest treatment, toasting and conching activities align to make great chocolate. So many questions are still there...often, more than answers.

So, my friends, in the future, I will make hard the spirit of good discussions and food for thought.

Thank you in advance for let me learn from you.

Juan Francisco Mollinedo

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