I am glad that there is good interest in this topic. My mail motivation for posting this was to try to come up with some solutions, mainly to the problem of the farmers not having more choices for selling their product, but also to find solutions for all the small chocolate makers that are beginning to appear everywhere.
Good quality cacao is hard to come by. Good post harvest practices are almost nonexistent in this part of Ecuador. Educating the farmers is key. The good thing is that they are willing to do whatever it takes to improve their product, as long as they are being compensated for doing so. The other good thing that is happening, at least in the US, is that customers realize that good quality has a premium price and they are willing to pay for it. Also I have noticed that my customers in the US care deeply about the farmers and that they get fair, or even generous compensation.
As a businessman, I also know that for me to support my employees and myself, I have to make a profit. So, customers have to be happy with the product that we provide, employees have to be happy with their work, suppliers have to be happy with their compensation. And we have to be happy with our compensation. A win, win, win, and win for all of us.
The beginning of the solutions has been expressed by your posts:
Sebastian said A solution for those interested in long term supplies of high quality beans is to invest in the farms and take an active role in its operations. Any takers?
Brian Horsley said as Jim says, the only way to have growers interested in growing fine cacao, organic cacao, fermenting and drying, or doing anything other than low quality high volume, is to make it more profitable for them by paying a premium price for beans. And the only way to do that is to have a high end market to sell the higher priced beans to
Clay Gordon states Sebastian brings up a very interesting point, which is that maybe it makes more sense for small chocolate makers to get together into a PURCHASING co-op rather than forcing the growers to organize. By doing so, the purchasing co-op drives larger volume purchases, which can start driving the critical mass of volume necessary to move away from commodity market pricing to specialty market quality, and the higher prices quality can command.
I would like to hear from some of the small or new chocolate makers and get their opinions.