Sweetening the deal: Entrepreneurs cultivate Vietnam land for chocolate cultivation
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/24/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
When it comes to Vietnam and agriculture, one usually thinks of expansive rice paddies and the odd bit of tropical fruit. What's not widely known is that Vietnam is being seen as an ideal place to cultivate cacao, which is used in the creation of the popular confection chocolate. The nation's warm, balmy climate along with its low public consumption for the delicious brown candy is being seen as ideal by entrepreneurs.
Marou is a gourmet form of chocolate grown in Vietnam that is sold in high-end shops all over the world.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The idea has been around awhile. Ten years ago, cacao seeds were planted through by non-profit organizations, Cacao was a relatively small crop, covering less than 2,000 hectares. There are now more than 54,000 acres of cacao in Vietnam. That figure is still relatively small compared to the country's 10.3 million acres that is dedicated to the production of rice.
"Cocoa produces roughly three years after planting and, in Vietnam, is promoted as a complement to existing crops," a managing director at ACDI-VOCA says. The project has been a win-win for the cocoa industry and Vietnamese farmers.
"Once the cocoa begins producing, the average farmer has harvested more than half a ton of cocoa, which provides approximately $1,000 in additional income for the family," he says.
There are plans to increase Vietnam's current cacao yield by 50 percent next year.
French colonists first planted cacao seeds in Vietnam in the 1800s. Cacao was outpaced by coffee, cashews, pepper and other, more profitable crops.
As recently as the 1980s, the Soviet Union attempted to grow cacao trees in Vietnam. Once the Berlin Wall fell, however, most of the Russian entrepreneurs moved away and trees were chopped down.
The original French connection to cacao in Vietnam has come full circle with Marou. Partners pay higher than fair trade prices to farmers for their beans, and perhaps more importantly, have won over Belgian master chocolatier.
Marou chocolate bars also have a dedicated following among connoisseurs of fine foods. They are sold in such retail outlets as Whole Foods and high-end British department stores like Harvey Nichols.
It must be noted that China doesn't have a history of chocolate consumption either - but chocolate accounts for 2 percent of China's food purchases. And it is rising. That's making it tough for cacao farmers all over the world to keep up with global demand.
If Vietnam's fledgling industry can get off the ground, it might be able to help make up the difference.
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