Our local team-leader in Honduras, consulting with farmers yesterday, the 16th of April.
We have all been hit by COVID-19, and we have all had to take our respective measures during these times. Everyone in the industry is greatly affected by the situation.
We experienced that our market in specialty cocoa and couverture went to zero around mid-March. All orders from chocolate makers and couverture distributors were cancelled or put on stand-by. This was accompanied with great uncertainty as to when and how markets will open up.
About at the same time as orders were cancelled, draconian curfews were implemented in Honduras and Guatemala, where Xoco has its out-grower operations. In Honduras, no movement to collect cocoa was allowed except with a special permit from the authorities. In Guatemala, a curfew from 4 pm to 4 am was implemented. This greatly impacted movement.
All other cocoa collectors stopped collecting in Honduras and Guatemala from mid-March. Many collectors of other cash crops that farmers are engaged in, including coffee, rubber and palm oil, also stopped their operations.
These conditions have left farmers, many of which already live on the poverty line, with no cash and in dire straits.
In Xoco we continue collecting at the above-market premium we guaranteed farmers when we started almost 13 years ago. Although we assume large financial risk because of this commitment, it is in challenging times like these that we must stand by the farmers in the value chain.
In Honduras, we have been battling with authorities to get our permit to collect, and yesterday we finally got it, and tested it at the many police check-points on the way to our farmer locations. It works! So, collection will start this Monday, the 20th of April.
In Guatemala, we have been collecting within the window of the curfew, with no interruptions.
In Nicaragua, movement has been normal, and we have been collecting from our own “mother tree” farm.
One of the most important lessons from Covid-19 is that we are all one humanity, wherever we happen to be born, and we all have a responsibility for each other.
Ours is a long-term project with long lag time before newly planted cocoa trees start producing. In spite of the not-so-few challenges over the years, we have continued doggedly because we are committed to make a change to how cocoa is grown. To get away from the dull, industrialized product you get when you choose the easy way and mix all flavours of the beans and disregard which trees you plant. By planting for a single variety as Xoco does - like it is done in grapes for wine, apples, cherries, any fruit category, except cocoa - flavour is greatly improved, and the people who eat chocolate will get better chocolate. Most people are willing to pay a little extra for a much better experience. That little extra can make a big difference. It will trickle down to the farmers and bring balance to the value chain. Something that is not there today, where mixed-bean farmers are grossly under-paid, and conditions simply are not dignified for a business value chain in 2020.
Stay safe, take care