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2023 Cacao Harvest Update

2023 Cacao Harvest Update

Hello and good day!

My brother Brian just returned from Peru.

He was down there on business, lining up cacao shipments, spending time with our team, and checking in with cacao farm families.

The cacao harvest is coming into its peak, and we are buying large quantities of cacao.  In fact, we broke our all-time record the other day for most wet cacao picked up in a single day.

The previous record was seven tons. A few days back, our team picked up eight tons of cacao. That is a lot of cacao to harvest and haul. After the cacao has been fermented and dried, the exportable weight will shrink down to about thirty percent of the wet weight. The mucilage will sluff off during fermentation and a lot of water weight evaporates when cacao is laid under the sun to dry.

A couple months back, I wrote about the weather pattern of this year's harvest. I mentioned that the first part of the 2023 harvest season was unusually dry. We believed this to be a good thing.

Cacao trees tend to flourish under conditions of water deprivation. Disease is reduced. The trees strengthen and the pods become bigger and more robust. The mucilage becomes more luscious.

In the middle of the harvest, there were hard, torrential rains that washed everything out. Now we are coming into a time of light, perfectly sprinkling rains that water the trees at just the right pace.

The result of this pattern is tremendously high production and very high-quality cacao. Every metric we are able to measure appears to indicate that this will be one of our most delicious cacao harvests ever.

Our cacao always makes great chocolate because the genetics of the cacao are top notch, and our fermenting and drying protocol is meticulous. However, each harvest has a distinct weather pattern that contributes to the flavor profile of the chocolate.

Here is something interesting to ponder. The cacao that we are harvesting now won't be in chocolate that is available for sale until roughly February or March of 2024.  Weather patterns that contributed to the flavor profile of the chocolate, occurred more than a year earlier. A chance occurrence relatively far in the past will impact the flavor of future chocolate.

Things like that are happening around us all the time. We are rarely able to identify them. I am making a note to remind our customers of this when the chocolate from this part of the 2023 harvest finally shows up as chocolate.

On another note, there is a worrying trend happening out in campo that we don't quite know how to contend with. We always knew that this would be a long-term obstacle for our company, and for our wonderful cacao farm partners.

But now it is starting to show up in force. A lot of the cacao farmers we buy from are getting older and they don't have enough youngsters around to help them out.

A particularly difficult case is the namesake of our company, Don Fortunato Colala. Don Fortunato was already an older man when we met him 14 years ago. His children had already grown up and moved to the city.

Prior to our arrival, cacao farmers in the region were selling their cacao into commodity supply chains for rock bottom prices. This and other factors, namely geographical remoteness, led to crushing, subsistence level poverty. In search of a better life, the children of cacao farmers left family farms to set up their lives elsewhere.

By the time we came on the scene and started paying much higher prices for cacao, the dye was already cast. The kids had moved off the farms. They had gotten married, had kids of their own, and built a life that couldn't be easily disrupted.

Their kids were in school. They had jobs. Their spouses had jobs. To pull up roots and move back out to campo wouldn't be an easy thing.

In the case of Don Fortunato, he trooped on with his lovely wife Elena. Their daughters came back to help from time to time. So did their son. But the trips were short because the children had to get back to their lives.

When we discovered that the purest sample ever tested of a thought to be extinct variety of cacao was growing on Don Fortunato's farm, it became clear that the economic prospects of the Colala family would improve.And they have. We pay Don Fortunato for the use of his name. We give the Colala family money when emergencies come up.

By the way, the Colala family isn't the only family we do that for. In general, we help out our farm partners with medical bills and other economic emergencies as a matter of course. It is a cost of doing business for us.

They are proud and honest people, so farm families normally don't ask unless the situation is dire.

Anyhow, Don Fortunato and Elena have been carrying on, doing business with us, for the last 14 years. Elena is a sturdy woman and Fortunato is a hardworking man. Between the two of them, they were able to manage their beautiful ten-acre farm, and their participation in our project helped their financial situation.

But now, 14 years later, Elena's health is starting to fail. And Fortunato is 14 years older. The issue isn't money.  The issue is the farm. It is falling into disrepair.

Don Fortunato doesn't have the strength he used to have, and he doesn't have his companion, Elena, out there working side by side with him.

Like I said, having the kids come back out to campo isn't as easy as it sounds. They are grown adults who have their lives all set up in other places. This is a reality that many of our cacao farm partners will have to face in the coming years.

We don't quite know what to do about it. Maybe there isn't anything that can be done. But we plan to contribute in some way once we have a better idea of how we can help.

On a positive note, construction continues on a five-story building out in campo that will house production equipment for making cacao nibs and cocoa butter and other artisanal products, as well as lodging for tourists. We are very proud to say that this project has been primarily funded by the extra profits earned from selling cacao to our company.

In the future, we plan to distribute the products made by our cacao farm partners in their facility. And we plan to arrange agro-tourism trips out to campo when the time comes.

Building up these additional industries in campo will hopefully encourage farm children to stay in the zone, which will help provide a long-term solution to the problem mentioned above. Or maybe there is some other solution that we aren't aware of that will present itself.

Before I sign off, I think it makes sense to remind you of our word-of-mouth program. As of last week, we have ceased all spending with Meta and Google for advertising.

In the future our entire growth as a company will depend on whether we do a good enough job to have our customers recommend us.

If you sign up for the program by clicking on the link below and filling out the application, we'll send you a 6% commission each month for the sales you help us generate and we'll send a matching 6% of the sales to our cacao farm partners to help out with pressing needs.

Alternatively, you can choose to have us send the entire allocated 12% down to our cacao farm partners.

It is hot now and not the best time to ship chocolate, so right at this moment might not be the best time to sign up, but please keep it in mind. However, we will have our new nut butters coming out within the next couple of weeks and they can be shipped in the heat. And the prototypes have been delicious. We just have to finalize the packaging.

The word-of-mouth funds we set aside may prove important in figuring out how to solve some of the long-term structural problems our cacao farm partners face. That is why we'd rather earmark the money to send down to campo, instead of continuing to spend money with Google and Meta.

Thank you so much for your time today.I hope that you have a truly blessed day!