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2023 Cacao Harvest Update

2023 Cacao Harvest Update

Hello and good day!

I'd like to start by giving you a link to look at.

This video was shot a few days ago by our field manager Oscar Ayala. Oscar has been working very hard getting two shipments of cacao ready for export.

One is heading to Switzerland to be turned into chocolate. The other is coming to the United States to be turned into nibs.  

There have been changes at the port we use and a whole new paperwork burden has been dumped on us. We've had our export process dialed in for years now. It has always been treacherous to get cacao out of campo, due west up and through the Andes mountains, and down the long northern Peruvian coast to the port. But at least we had our systems all built and the administrative part of it had come to be pain free.

No longer.

The requirements make the whole process 8-10 times longer.

Such is life. Things always change. One has no choice but to put up with it, adapt, and keep moving forward.

There are all kinds of little things that go on behind the scenes to make the products we enjoy, and depend upon, possible. Generally speaking, consumption is the brief culmination of a very long and unglamorous process.

For example, the video above. This video was shot in Puerto Ciruelo. Puerto Ciruelo is a tiny port town sitting on the eastern bank of the Chinchipe River. All of our cacao is purchased in a triangular shaped canyon back behind Puerto Ciruelo. The canyon is boxed in on all sides by tall mountains.

There are roughly 80 separate farming villages back in the canyon, all connected by an intricate system of dirt roads. The cacao that we use in our chocolate, pure Nacional, grows wildly all throughout the canyon. Puerto Ciruelo has decent concrete roads. When it rains like this day after day for months, the roads in town flood, but a heavy truck can still make its way along the streets in Puerto Ciruelo.

However, as you can see when Oscar pans to the sides, the roads just outside of town are dirt and mud. The water running downhill into Puerto Ciruelo is murky and brown because it is pulling sediment from the country roads above.

Out in campo, it has been raining nonstop for several months. This year's harvest has been a tremendous challenge.

Regardless of weather, our resourceful team is required to travel out to the farms of our partners to buy their cacao. Cacao must be harvested, or it will rot on the tree. The cacao then needs to be transported back to the processing facility to be fermented and dried according to our rigorous specifications.

All of the work this year has been done in unrelenting, terrible, rainfall.

If I may, I'd like to point out something about the last twenty-five years or so of technological development. The video above is a good example of what I want to say.

Being able to share content and distribute information has its benefits and demerits. GPS is an unqualified good. Apps that help you manage your health can only be applauded. Much of social media has probably been more negative than positive on the whole because it has led to a mental health epidemic.

But what about something like the video above? On the one hand, I feel it is a very good thing for our wonderful chocolate customers to see where their chocolate really comes from.

My hope is that videos like the one above will create a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation for the hard-working folks who grow and harvest cacao day in and day out. Without them, no chocolate is possible.

But on the other hand, seeing the video doesn't really solve the problem.

Our project helps farm families by putting more money in their pockets and saving them the time of having to do their own post-harvest processing. These are very good and important things.

However, paving roads is the real solution and that is generally done by governments. In theory, a whole bunch of cacao farmers could pool money and start paving roads, but that is very unlikely. Public infrastructure is considered to be a job for government.

But the canyon where we buy cacao is so remote and relatively sparsely populated, that the government doesn't pay much attention to it. Given this reality, how much good does being able to upload a video actually do?

Does it change anything in reality? Or is it simply entertainment? I don't know the answer to that.

I do know this though.

Real world problems must be solved in the real world. We can have video calls with our team in campo all day long and they can be good for brainstorming.

Eventually though, somebody is going to have to put on rubber boots, a blue rain tarp, goggles, a waterproof hat, a machete holster on their waste, a first aid kit in the storage department on the back of their motorcycle, and they are going to have to drive off the end of the asphalt road and back into the mud.

I can show you videos all day of washed-out adobe houses and thin aluminum roofs battered by the rain until they cave in and fold in half down the middle and collapse into a living room. But those videos don't solve the problems on the ground.

In these cases, internet technology doesn't help one bit. All that can help is more resources and more intelligence and more effort out in the real world.

Along those lines, I am proud to say that we have all of the systems stuff built for our new word of mouth program. As I wrote about a week ago, we are going to axe our entire marketing budget in favor of this new program. Customers will be able to get a link that looks something like this:

If you let your friends know about our chocolate and send them your link, and if they click through your link and make a purchase, we'll pay you a 6% commission on every sale made through your link. Additionally, we'll send a matching 6% down to the cacao farmers association.

The money we send down to Peru will be used for purchasing school supplies for cacao farm children, bringing in medicine, taking necessities out to farms when the roads are washed out, building lodging for agrotourism, investing in machinery so that our cacao farm partners can produce nibs and cocoa butter in campo for us in the future to earn even more, and much, much more.

This is why it will behoove referred friends to purchase through your link instead of going straight to our website. That is how we will be able to track sales back to you and earmark the money.

One customer has recommended that we make it possible for customers to defer their commission in order to send the entire 12% down to Peru. We are going to make that a possibility as well.

However, we do want this to be a way for our wonderful friends and customers to earn a little walking around money.

Believe me, we'd much rather you have that money in your bank account than for Google and Facebook to have it in theirs. We'll be testing the system over the next couple of weeks and then we'll launch it and hopefully by the end of May, we'll have a good chunk of money to send down.

If we stick with this for the next several years, which we will, we can make a very big impact in a deserving community.

I am running out of space and steam for now.

Thank you so, so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!