We are excited to share with you our recent visit to Yacao in the Dominican Republic. A partner in producing our organic cocoa powder, one of Equal Exchanges most loved products. During our visit, we had the opportunity to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing the cacao industry in the region.
Yacao has been a long term partner of ours for many years and provides small scale farmers in the area with the ability to have their cacao fermented, dried and exported. Cacao requires a lot of processing from it’s raw state to become the cocoa powder and chocolate we are used to consuming and most farmers lack the necessary resources to manage that themselves, this is where Yacao comes in to aid those farmer co-ops.
When Yacao receives the raw cacao from the farmer group, it is sent for fermentation. This means the cacao will sit and ferment in large sacks for 3-4 days, turning a purple colour and producing a pungent, sweet fragrance.
Once the cacao has finished fermenting it then goes off to the drying beds. These are large covered areas that become very warm under the constant sunshine. The cacao is turned every so often by workers to reduce the moisture content over a few days before it’s final stage of being processed through a machine to get rid of the last chaff and twigs. The cacao is then packed up in large sacks and is ready to ship in large containers. Each stage of this chain requires numerous checks for quality and control.
We were able to spend some time with the farmers on the plant nursery. Here young cacao plants are grown using previous years crops that have had strong yields of fruit and good quality pods. These plants are then sold at cost price to the farmer co-ops to encourage the planting of quality trees to improve the cacao yields of what farmers are producing each year. Yacao is hoping to increase the quantity and quality of cacao coming through over time with this programme.
We had the pleasure of being escorted around Yacaos facilities by COO of Yacao, Killian Moser. Kilian was able to explain the varied issues for Yacao and the current barriers to improving trade and conditions for farmer co-ops. Yacao processes a great deal of cacao and this comes with issues in the current climate. Increased costs of labour, manufacturing and energy among other aspects that mean the general cost of production is constantly going up against the money they are paid for the finished cacao. Certification costs are also a huge outlay for Yacao and the work that it continues to do. Seasonal weather in the Dominican republic is also becoming more unpredictable, currently the DR is going through an intense dry spell with no rain for crops and rationed drinking water. There have also been far larger, more intense hurricanes during hurricane seasons. Despite all of these factors Yacao was able to produce more cacao in 2022 than any other year previously which gives hope to the cacao region of this country and a reason for us to continue our work on our cocoa products here at Equal Exchange.
Equal Exchange partners with Yacao to produce our wonderful Organic Hispaniola Cocoa Powder!
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