The popular adage “an opportunity from the crisis” summarizes the case of the industry and producers of organic and fair trade cocoa in Honduras who have seen the demand for their product from Switzerland increase by 30%, in the context of the crisis due to the Covid19 pandemic. “
Chocolate labeled “made with cacao from Honduras” is sold in Coop supermarkets in Switzerland. “The Swiss citizen usually eats in the cafeteria of companies or universities. Currently, the industry in general has been closed, the population is at home and buying food in supermarkets and that has caused an increase in the consumption of Honduran chocolate by 30% ”, explains Mr. Luis Vélex, manager of the company Chocolats Halba Honduras.
However, the quarantine that Honduras has been experiencing since March 2020 modified the dynamics of cocoa harvesting a bit, although “the process was not altered at all,” emphasizes Vélex. The cocoa harvest takes longer due to the restrictions on movement, so it arrives a little slower at the wineries in San Pedro Sula.
The company has not closed. And, despite the pandemic, it continues with the benefits to producers. “Chocolats Halba has kept prices for producers above the stock market. It provides a purchase advance to the cooperatives, pre-financing the purchase with 0% interest, so that the cooperatives pay the producer when they deliver the cocoa in slime, “he said.
He claims that the cooperatives continue to collect cocoa and ferment it. And at Chocolats Halba they are working with all the biosafety measures that the health authorities and the government have recommended.
Chocolats Halba is also part of cocoa development projects in different areas of the country: in Olancho with Rikolto and Helvetas Honduras in the project Strengthening the Quality Cocoa Value Chain in the Department of Olancho, and in the north with the Program PROCACAHO and in the Mosquitia area the PRAWANKA Program. Through these programs, producer organizations are served and monitoring is being carried out, bringing information and provision of Covid prevention equipment.
Lourdes Zamora, Coordinator of the Rikolto Cacao Program in Honduras, together with the company Chocolats Halba conduct study pilots in Successional Dynamic Agroforestry Systems (DAF), to prepare a study on the nutritional contribution of the products that come out of a dynamic agroforestry system .
“We will learn how all these species strengthen the immune system and can be part of the family’s diet to counteract the effects that the pandemic may have,” says Lourdes.
Exports during quarantine
While in Coop supermarkets in Switzerland chocolate made with Honduran cocoa is bought daily, in Honduras the company continues to collect and export cocoa despite the pandemic. .
Until May, in quarantine, they have sent 25 tons of organic and fair trade cocoa. Vélex indicates that they will soon export 100 more tons, of which 25 are organic and fair trade.
Challenges in the face of climate crisis
Chocolate made with cacao from Honduras must have double certification: organic and fair trade. And that doubly certified cocoa represents 50% of the cocoa that the company receives at the winery, says Vélex.
It indicates that from Switzerland it has calls every week and the stock is very small, it is “in the danger line”. They cannot react because it depends on field production. Explain that organic and fair trade cocoa depends on how much is on the farms and in the cooperatives.
With a tone of concern, Vélex points out that cocoa production is not affected by the pandemic but by climate change.
“Far from the challenges presented by mobilization due to country restrictions due to the quarantine of the pandemic, it is more adaptation to climate change and changes in harvest dates by area that can vary the supply of cocoa,” he said.
According to the projections of the company, they should have bought 80 tons of cocoa and they have only obtained 50 tons. “The lag is due to the conditions of climate change,” he adds.
As a good predictor, Chocolats Halba has been working together with Rikolto to face the climate crisis with the Successional Dynamic Agroforestry Systems (DAF). These are a measure to adapt to climate change and are part of the activities of the Knowledge Management Project of the Central American cocoa value chain implemented by Rikolto, the World Cocoa Foundation and the Swiss Cooperation for Development (SDC).
Zamora added that DAFs incorporate vegetative cover and provide different nutrients to the soil and increase the productivity of the cocoa plant. It is a sustainable alternative system for producers because it allows the production of healthy (organic) and diversified food that is incorporated into the diet, strengthens the immune system, recreates ecosystems and constitutes a tool to face climate change.
While Chocolats Halba technicians visit cooperatives and collection centers on a daily basis, the company provides face-to-face or virtual technical assistance service in post-harvest quality. “The technicians are working so that quality is not affected at all, despite the pandemic,” says Vélex.
He recalled that the business model of Chocolats Halba has a strong social character, it is a fair trade that is interested in cocoa trees, a price is paid very different from the international price, which improves the living conditions of these small producers and , at the same time, the environmental conservation of Honduras.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship. For Honduran producers, over-demand is an opportunity to fine-tune their cocoa production processes. For Swiss citizens it is the possibility of continuing to receive their favorite chocolate despite these times of pandemic. And between a seed that is planted in Honduras to the bar that is tasted in a Swiss apartment, there is a chain of processes that every day tries to be, more commercially fair, healthier and more environmentally responsible.
More information: Luis Regalado / Chocolats Halba
Lourdes Zamora, Project Coordinator cocoa – Rikolto
Italy Laitano, Nutritionist
Judith Vanegas communication consultant GESCON- Rikolto
judith .vanegas @ rikolto.org