Examining a Mast Brothers Assertion
Posted in: Opinion
I have not been out to visit the Mast brothers since last fall but have bought some of their bars since at a variety of locations. I like it but am still a novice. I also love what they are doing and hope to somewhat replicate what they are doing but working within the Dominican Republic. The whole pricing and grading thing will be closely examined on my next trip to the DR after having the ability to ask the right questions, primarily from participating on this board. Last summer I bought a 100 pound bag of fermented (Hispanola in the DR) beans from Cooproagro (formally block 1 of Conacado) for about US$190. The commodity price was around $3,000 at the time and farmers were getting around $144 for 100 lbs. for Sanchez which is unfermented and around $158 for fermented. All the fermentation, beyond a couple of farmers in the areas I work, is done by the bigger producers or the farmer cooperatives. Farmers are now encouraged to get the cacao wet to one of these fermentation centers but I still do not know how that is priced from the farmer's perspective. The price for cacao is pretty much the same whether a farmer is a member of a cooperative, associated with a major producer or sells independently from what I know. I will have more to add in July.
About a year ago I read an article somewhere and then saw a video on the Mast Brother's website about them bringing, I think 20 tons of beans from the DR to NYC on a sailing ship. Very interesting and on one of the bags I saw the name of the farmer's cooperative in the DR. About 3 weeks into my trip and after asking around at Conacado, I rode my motorcycle and found the Red de Guaneco and spoke with a women who manages the cooperative. Found out that there has been 5 or 6 Peace Corps volunteers who have worked with the community over the last decade and the last two or three focused on supporting the cooperative. US AID funded much of the construction of the buildings, fermentation boxes, and the plastic covered drying areas. They sell dried beans, and cacao powder which is processed for them in country, and she will make you hot chocolate to drink when you visit. It is a mini version of the blocks which feed into Conacado. There is a list of the 100 members of the Red and how much cacao each supply. I did not get details about grading and pricing but discussed their dealings with Mast Brothers and Taza where I also saw a video implying they developed and supported the farmers in this cooperative without mentioning Peace Corps or US AID.
The big players like Rizek, Roig, Munne, and Hermanos Cortes may also supply them quality beans but I seriously doubt the farmer is getting more than their $158 for 100 pounds (now it is less) of beans which are fermented in the cooperative. The cooperative then receives US$800 a ton more than the commodity price for Hispanola when sold on the open market.
I would love to know what Hector Rizek sells his beans for to Michel Cluizel for the Los Ancones bar which has the Rizek's ID'ed on the back. When you open up the book on chocolate sold in the store, a big picture of Don Rizek is on the first page looking over a couple workers on a farm.