Hello and good day!
The 2023 cacao harvest is about to really start picking up steam.Every year from January - August, we buy cacao from about 500 small cacao farm families living in northern Peru.
For the first time in several years, we are expecting a much more stable supply chain.
Gas prices are easing down a bit and this should minimize the number of protests that block mountain passes. We have to drive cacao from east of the Andes mountains, over a mountain pass to the coast, and then down the coast to Lima.
This is one place where our supply chain has been very vulnerable, especially as of late.The protests have primarily been over gas prices.
There are a lot of political protests going on in Peru now, but things appear to be calm in the north where we operate.That can change any time, but it seems like the violent and active political grievances are coming out of the big southern cities of Cusco and Arequipa.
Those cities are far from where we operate.We're scouring the news and getting first hand reports from friends and families in the north and things are relatively calm.
It sounds like boats are leaving the port regularly. Our shipping agent says that container shortages have normalized.Sporadic boat departure and shipping container shortages have plagued us over the last several years.
In spite of the news, things are looking positive.Of course, if you look at the photo above, you will see an irreparable supply chain issue that can't be solved or predicted.
Rain and muddy roads.You can't even count the number of small, back country, muddy roads we have to bring cacao down.
In this case, in the picture the cacao grove is in the background off to the left. On the right is rice.
We could take a pick up or motorcycles down this path when it is dry.But if rains hard for a week, the only option will be to hoof it either by foot or using animals.You couldn't risk taking a vehicle down this road when the road is wet.
And this highlights something that my brother and I were talking about just the other day. Despite our company's best efforts, there is only so much a company that buys cacao can do for our wonderful friends out in campo.
My brother was lamenting the fact that after 10 years living in campo and after spending so much money into this community buying cacao over the years, it is still a very poverty stricken place.
The fact of the matter is that if you live at the end of a dirt road like this one and it rains for a week, it doesn't really matter how much extra money you have in the bank. And it doesn't matter if you have streaming internet or a flat screen TV or a motorcycle.
If heavy rains come in, you are stranded.
The only thing that can really change that is massive infrastructure spending to put in well built roads and more comprehensive rain drainage. Clean water and more stable electricity would be good too.
With the correct infrastructure, a proper hospital could be built. You could put a bank out in campo. Those improvements would start to snowball.
The large premiums we pay for cacao would mean a lot more in the context of infrastructure improvements. But those aren't likely to be forthcoming anytime soon.
So, we do the best we can, even though we wish we could do more. Nobody out in campo expects us to do more and I guarantee you that those proud folks aren't looking for any handouts.
Sometimes in life, all you can do is the best you can. If your intentions are good, and if you are stretching yourself to the maximum to do right, then you have to try and be content.
Here in the United States, we make and sell chocolate that is delicious and that people enjoy. There is great satisfaction in that.
But we are always kind of straddling two worlds.
We do business in one place that is remote and where rain shuts down entire communities on and off for 8-9 months out of the year.
As a collective group, we and our wonderful customers send as much money as we can down there in exchange for delicious cacao.
On the other hand, we have natural gas piped into our houses, good hard roads that withstand the rain, and if the power goes out, we know the utility company will get right on it.
There are utility companies out in campo, but they can't do their work on muddy roads either. If the electricity goes out, it can be out for a long time. This is an ever present supply chain issue for us and it is an ever present reminder that we always need to do as much as we can.
We can never be content with what we've done in the past. We have to keep giving our best. At the same time, if we know we're giving our best, there is nothing more we can do, even though that can sometimes be hard to accept.
All that being said, we plan to buy a lot of cacao to make a lot of chocolate this harvest season and we are going to keep our fingers crossed that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!