17/10/23

Cocoa's revival in Mexico

 

In this last chronicle, our colleague Michaela will tell us more about her trip with the cocoa team in Mexico. ECOM’s operations in Mexico started in 1996, when offices were established in Tabasco followed by a processing plant in Veracruz, and most recently an office in Chiapas in 2010. 

 

Over the years, cocoa production has drastically declined in Mexico, due to the spread of disease, old trees, and farmers opting to replant their farms with a more profitable and easier to manage crop such as palm or maize. In 2008, cocoa yields dropped by 46% due to the cocoa pod disease, moniliasis, resulting in the loss of prominence of cocoa. It was only until recently that efforts to revamp the production and maximize revenue for producers took place, from external groups and the Mexican government alike. Today, cocoa production is situated in Tabasco (70%), Chiapas (28%), Oaxaca (1%) and Guerrero (1%). 

 

 

Michaela had the opportunity to meet with Juan Pacherre, the Head of Sustainability and Specialty Cocoa in Mexico. He showed her around the Chiapas region, and introduced her to various projects, producers, and of course, the beautiful cocoa pods.

 

According to Juan, the sustainability projects going on in Mexico are mainly funded byour largest clients to provide producers with more tolerant cocoa varieties to promote increased production. The refined Agrobusiness Model allows for the careful development and implementation of these varieties. 

 

These sustainability projects were implemented in 2011 in Chiapas, and were spearheaded by Janett Gomez. Over the years, they have extended to Tabasco, and they have found success, reaching over 1,000 cocoa producers, creating the ability and knowledge to reach more farmers every year. 

 

The next visit encompassed the Collection Garden within Finca Don Jorge, which is essentially a 13-hectare germplasm bank, with 17 different varieties of cocoa recognized for its quality and tolerance to diseases. It is here where various agronomic trials are tested to understand the best varieties for different climates of Mexico. 

 

 

 

ECOM’s cocoa nursery is run and managed by an agronomist named Lino Garcia. He showed to Michaela the delicate process of extracting seeds from pods, preparing them for planting, then the grafting system that follows; overall taking only 4-5 months to produce a young tree. In the end, tolerant and high-quality cocoa trees thrived and were able to be dispersed to producers throughout the region. This nursery has an annual capacity to produce 500,000 cocoa plants and agroforestry trees per year.

 

ECOM is also offering producers training opportunities, new cocoa varieties, each contributing to a long-term improvement in income and a future for cocoa. Not only that, but the cocoa taste is greatly improving, especially with the increased popularity of specialty cocoa. Juan and his team are truly paving the future for cocoa in Mexico. 

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