Agriculture was experiencing a comeback in Puerto Rico with an upward trend in recent years. Then came Hurricane Maria which had a devastating impact to the farming community in Puerto Rico, wiping out nearly 80 percent of its agriculture. Many of the crops affected were island staples such as bananas, plantains, coffee beans, avocados, as well as others. It’s estimated that it will take decades to fully restore some crops.
Cacao also made the list of crops that were trying to gain a strong foothold when the small cacao farms were brutally impacted by Hurricane Maria. Efforts by some nonprofits which are spreading the word about funds needed to renew cacao farms is a good start. Additionally, the mayor of Aguada, Mr. Manuel “Gabina” Santiago Mendoza, signed a proposal this past week on a program to train and educate in the cultivation of cacao. Part of that proposal is a partnership with Jeanmarie Chocolat. The approved funds in the amount of $56,000 is the first phase of the cacao commerce out of Aguada, Puerto Rico.
Currently, 60 percent of cacao production comes from two main countries in Africa– Ghana and Ivory Coast–with the major consumers being Europe, United States, and Canada. If we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, it makes environmental sense to start looking at new regions to supply our love affair with chocolate. Just as important, we need better working conditions for farmers where they can make a livable wage and increase their quality of life. As it stands, cacao farmers earn about 3 percent from cacao farming, while the retailer takes in a whopping 43 percent! It’s time to shift the scale so that labor is also included in the balance, and profits are benefiting the farmers whose large contribution is key to the industry.
Some of you may recognize this brownie pictured below. Without cacao, this pic would be reduced to flour and eggs. Thank you cacao farmers!