Cacao Production – TCGA
A couple of mornings ago I had an opportunity to meet with a representative from the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA) location in downtown Punta Gorda. The TCGA is a co-operative with the purpose of sustainability and growth for the local cacao industry and the farmers who work the product.
Cacao production in the Toledo district is a fundamental component of the economy. Presently there are over 1000 members in the TCGA, with approximately 750 of them managing their cacao farms. At this time only 300 farmers are producing and selling with the remainder being new farms (2004 – 2006 plantings) and have only started to see the “fruit of the crop” this year. This represents a population of approximately 4% of the total population who are cacao producers. The production over the past several years has risen from 40,000 pounds of cacao beans to over 106,000 pounds annually, with the Toledo District being the largest producer of cacao in the country.
During my brief visit with Armando, the TCGA representative, I learned quite a few things. I consider myself to be a chocoholic but just because I love eating it doesn’t mean I know diddly about it. I know milk chocolate, I know dark chocolate and I know white chocolate and that about sums up my knowledge of this incredible product. After yesterday’s discussion I came away wanting to learn more about cacao and I came away feeling like my knowledge had increased quite a bit. I learned that there are different varieties of chocolate that are used depending upon the end result. For example the chocolate that goes into chocolate bars would be different from the chocolate that would go into biscuits.
On further research, I learned that there are three kinds of cacao beans that are used in the production of chocolate. They are Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario. Criollo, according to Toledo Cacao Growers Association, is the most expensive bean of these three and it is native to South and Central America, unlike the Trinitario , which is indigenous to Trinidad. Because of its low efficiency, the Criollo is the rarest of the cocoa beans and makes up only 10% of the world’s production. The Forastero is disease resistant and makes up the most quantity of the beans produced. This bean is native to Africa and South America. The Trinitario is a mixture of the other two and is the most common variety found in chocolate.
The Toledo Cacao Growers Association has sustainable farming as a prime objective, along with education, research and development, and a base element of the association is involvement. This association is more than a governing body; it is a co-operative, encouraging the farmers to get involved in their own futures.
One of the more exciting developments of the TCGA during the year of the Mayan, 2012, is the construction and operation of a chocolate museum. The Toledo Cacao Growers Association has been the recipient of a grant which is to be used to establish a working Cacao Museum. The initiative will rehabilitate approximately 200 acres of cacao lands which are currently owned by 100 small farmers. Business education will be provided for 50 individuals, 20 women, 20 men and 10 youth from the Toledo district. Twenty-five young adults will be trained in the practice of growing cacao and 50 women will be trained in the making of cacao products. Further value added improvements will come in the increased production of cacao and the expanding earning opportunities to be enjoyed in the rural communities of Toledo.
Source – http://tcgabelize.com/ and a representative from Toledo Cacao Growers Association