Finding a reliable, traceable and quality supplier is the first roadblock for most chocolate makers. Not knowing where cacao beans come from holds a long list of worries for consumers, from quality control to farming conditions.
It’s no secret that the gap between a customer buying their favourite bar to the often hidden world of a plantation is a large, clouded place with few rules in place. Craft chocolate frontiers have been working hard to edge that gap and create clear and transparent paths for makers and farmers to follow.
Founder of Moulinet Chocolat Limited, Estela Duque, is one of said frontiers with a fight on her hands and a mission to stand up for Filipino farmers, quality cacao and the power of effective labelling starting with the South Cotabato region of the Philippines.
But Estela doesn’t just want to tell the world about her goal, she’s showing them, using her uncle’s estate, Kablon Farms as a stellar example.
O.L.P, which stands for Origin Linked Product is a term to link a product via origin, quality standards, production processes, working conditions and more. With recognition, this could give notable accreditation to participating farms, whilst providing a clear list of procedures to follow, celebrating those who partake and their unique product.
This principle can be used with any product but works especially well in the cacao industry where worldwide labels are lacking, rules are unwritten and most farmers have no incentive to grow a high-quality product as large corporate companies continue to treat cocoa as a commodity. In short, labels such as O.L.P work to empower and band together farmers who are stronger in numbers.
Estela, who has been campaigning to have it recognised in the EU, explained how “It is a science-based concept, in as much as we try to have verifiable and reproducible parameters for identifying and distinguishing the products. But whether one views this effort positively as an advocate, or cynically as merely a branding tool, what one has to keep in mind is that the producers we are trying to protect will have no other recourse for distinguishing themselves from the large corporate entities that keep the price of cocoa depressed.”
Nestled in the municipality of Tupi, in the Philippines, is Kablon Farm, where they grow, dry and ferment single estate Trinitario cacao amongst mangosteen, papaya, sugar cane and more under the watchful eye of the dormant volcano, Mount Matutum. After the farm was founded in the 1950’s they now create a wide range of speciality food products from tropical fruit jams, coconut oil and chocolate.
Kablon Farms supply cocoa beans for chocolate makers such as Dormouse, Duffy’s, Land, Krak, and Solikiki who have won prestigious prizes in the Academy of Chocolate, International Chocolate and Great Taste Awards for their Kablon made bars.
Since 2016, Moulinet Chocolat has been bringing their award-winning cacao from the Philippines to the UK for British and other European chocolate makers to devour. The multitude of benefits of direct trade between farmers and makers ranges from a delicious end product for consumers to a fair and safe working environment for growers.
It shields farmers from the penny squeezing companies that so many are at the mercy of and gives outstanding cacao a chance to speak for itself to people who are willing to pay the real price, yet it’s not so easy to achieve, especially for those who need it most. Food grade storage containers don’t come cheap and the initial investment so necessary for export is higher than many small businesses can even consider.
This is why Moulinet Chocolat are fundraising for a Cocoa Bean Warehouse, a place where specially fermented and expertly grown cacao can reach talented makers and lucky consumers. With this storage facility, Moulinet will bypass the commodities trading sector and directly supply the chocolate makers, thereby laying the British and European foundation for the supply of Kablon Farms/South Cotabato cacao.
Commodities trading involves purely financial transactions, physical and derivatives trading in the primary sector of the economy i.e. the extraction of natural resources from farming, forestry, mining, fishing, etc.
In this case, the distribution of cocoa beans as farm products are controlled by large market users whether hedgers, speculators, or firms acting on behalf of many hidden accounts, which cut off farmers from chocolate makers and consumers.
It is on this basis that Moulinet Chocolat is establishing direct control over the cacao supply, so more money can be directly channelled to the cocoa bean producers, instead of large commodities trading houses and warehouse owners.
They are not asking for charity, CEO Estela and her team are doing what they always do, and swapping quality goods for a fair price. Crowdfunding rewards include craft chocolate bars, handmade brownies, Andrew Baker’s book From Bean to Bar – A Chocolate Lovers Guide to Britain, tickets for your very own chocolate flight with Kapihan, and even the cocoa beans fermented using the newest protocols created specially by scientist Zoi Papalexandratou (ZOTO) are all available for a donation to the project.
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