The Grenada Chocolate Festival is really different from all the other festivals I have attended in the last years. It is one of the only festivals where participants can visit craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers and cacao plantations all around the country, as well as take part in various activities like chocolate yoga or skin products creation with cacao. The range of activities is really diversified, and one leaves the country knowing more about every aspects of the chocolate industry in Grenada.
During our numerous field visits to cacao plantations and chocolate makers, I was pleased to see how many tree-to-bar makers (note 1) appeared in the last years in Grenada. There are now four of them including the well-known Grenada Chocolate Company, and a fifth one will be ready soon to sell his products. The chocolate industry is literally booming, and the Grenadian people are really proud of what is happening in their country. I did not visit all the cacao producing countries, but in the ones I traveled to, I have not seen that deep awareness and pride anywhere else. Except in Peru, where there are 12 to 15 bean-to-bar makers (and probably even more since my last visit in July 2016).
Starting to make chocolate on site, in a cacao producing country, is a great way to add value to a raw material and to create more jobs in the country. It is also a way to bypass the low prices farmers receive for their crop. While in Grenada, I learned that an organization called Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) is in charge of buying, selling and exporting all the cacao beans Grenada produces. In doing so, they also fix the price to be paid to the producers. This association, owned at least in part by farmers, has the monopoly to buy cacao (Note 2).
The GCA buys wet beans (Note 3) for 1,50$ EC per pound (around 0,55$ USD), in line with the commodity market; then they ferment and dry them in one of their facilities. The price paid by the GCA is not enough for the farmers to make a living. It is also not enough to recognize the specificity of the fine flavour cacao from Grenada: this cacao should not be traded on the stock market. That is one of the reasons why youths do not want to take over the family farms. And as everywhere else in the world, cacao producers are getting older, the majority of them in Grenada being in their 50s or even their 60s.
When a cacao producer in Grenada decides to make chocolate with his beans, he does not need to go through the GCA, which can be a huge advantage (Note 4). In that sense, the Grenada Chocolate Company has been a pioneer. When Mott Green founded the company in 1999, he created a cooperative, and farmers were part of it too. There were 10 farmers at the beginning; there are now more than 30, all organic certified. By incorporating the farmers in the company, Mott was allowed to buy their cacao beans directly, and he paid a higher price. Today, the Grenada Chocolate Company still pays more for its cacao: 2,50$ EC / pound (around 0,93$ USD) (Note 5). And since the company is a cooperative, farmers also get part of the profits.
In the next part of this series, I will talk more about the mythical Grenada Chocolate Company and the challenges it will face in the next months.
Note 1: Since everyone making chocolate in Grenada also grows it’s cacao, it’s more appropriate to use the expression tree-to-bar than bean-to-bar.
Note 2: Three of its board members come from the government, while the remaining six are elected by the members of the association (Grenada Cocoa Association Act).
Note 3: The wet beans are the beans freshly removed from the pods, before they undergo the fermentation and drying processes. The GCA has centralized fermentation and drying centers.
Note 4: Personal communication with Lylette Primell (Crayfish Bay Chocolate) and James Mort (The Grenada Chocolate Company).
Note 5: Personal communication with James Mort (The Grenada Chocolate Company).