by John Kehoe, Value Chain Committee Chair and Director of Sustainability, Guittard Chocolate; and Bill Guyton, FCIA Executive Director
As the COVID19 pandemic hits cocoa producing countries, our work as an organization, as companies, and as individuals with our value chain partners, cooperatives and farmers is more important than ever. In Latin America and the Caribbean, many cocoa crops are just beginning with their countries in lockdown and buying networks stopped or functioning on minimal operations and with great precautions.
FCIA’s value chain programs with the USDA are particularly important now. We are working closely with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) implementers of the cocoa program under the USDA MOCCA project (Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa and Coffee in the Americas) in Ecuador, Peru, Honduras and Guatemala. With on-farm trainings on hold, LWR has opted in the short run not to print and distribute COVID-19 safety materials directly to farmers. Instead, they are sharing educational recommendations on social media and WhatsApp groups that were already established through the MOCCA program. These WhatsApp groups are the network of trainers that have been organized in four Latin American cocoa-producing countries. LWR is using this platform to receive updates from the field and provide recommendations about the pandemic. Here are examples of messages already being used.
LWR is also organizing direct humanitarian aid to cocoa farmers in the hard it area of Guayas. LWR has shipped two containers of material resources to Ecuador for cocoa farming communities including: Quilts (6,000 units), Blankets (600 units), School kits (5,040 units), Personal care kits (5,600 units) and Baby care kits (3,000 units). This donation is being managed directly by LWR and the union of cocoa cooperatives UNOCACE. LWR will work with UNOCACE to distribute materials safely to people at risk. If your company would like to donate to these efforts to pay for other supplies such as chlorine for water or masks, please contact us so that we can put you in direct contact with our partners.
We are also proud to be working with the CNFA MOCA project in the Ivory Coast (Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity) where Ivorian cocoa farmers and cooperatives are learning best practices to produce premium quality cocoa for the fine chocolate market. Project implementers CNFA partnered with FCIA and the World Cocoa Foundation’s Africa Cocoa Initiative on a Quality Flavor Symposium in Abidjan that was schedule for late March and will be rescheduled for the fall.
We are excited to have initiated a proposal together with our sister organization, the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Fund to USAID to support work with cocoa farmers in Madagascar through an RFP (request for proposals) for their private sector Global Development Alliance HEARTH facility.
All of us appreciate the importance of high-quality cocoa and being able to communicate effectively with our suppliers to improve flavor and consistency. FCIA and member companies have been working for a number of years towards the development of international standards for cocoa quality and flavor assessment that will facilitate that process. Draft protocols for public review for all processes through cocoa liquor flavor assessment are now available through cocoaqualitystandards.org. Chocolate flavor assessment and tempering will follow. We encourage all of our members to download and critique these documents so they become stronger and better serve their purpose of “A common language for a clear communication throughout the cocoa value chain.”
The Value Chain Committee is open to all interested members. We meet during the FCIA Elevate Chocolate events, often with guest speakers. We hold webinars and calls throughout the year. For more information and to get involved, please reach out to me or our Executive Director, Bill Guyton.