What happened to cacao in Guatemala?

Recently arrived in Guatemala 2 months ago to open a cacao and chocolate museum in the city of Antigua, I was more than happy to visit my first Guatemalan cocoa plantations this sunday 22nd of January 2012. Guatemala was home of the Maya people who were living in the region for many centuries and considering the cocoa tree as "the food of the gods". The main growing regions for the Mayas were the region of Suchitepequez in Guatemala and Soconosco in Southern Mexico (Chiapas). At that time, Guatemala was in the top growing regions of cocoa in the world. Now Guatemala is only producing approximately 1000 tons of cocoa per year (1000 times less than what produces Ivory Coast). While heading to Suchitepequez in car from Antigua, Guatemala you could see huge parts of lands covered by sugar cane plantations or rubber trees. These plantations require a lot of water and has a bad impact on the surrounding communities.[Read this article about Guatemalan Sugar Cane]. The industry employs about 350,000 people, with workers migrating from all parts of Guatemala, during the harvest season from October to March. Sugar cane workers earn the equivalent of about $8 per day. But when the harvest is over, the workers need to find other jobs until the next harvest. Finally we arrived in Chicacao and San Miguel Panan in the department of Suhitepequez. Finally I saw my first cocoa trees and the ambiance is way different from the ambiance in the sugar cane plantation. The cocoa tree grows among other species such as avocado trees, mango trees, zapote trees... You can hear the sound of birds and animals, you can see the little midges flying around the trees and the air is fresh.

Cacao plantation in Guatemala
Cacao Plantation in Suchitepequez
Cacao plantation in Guatemala
Pepe's new cacao plantation

We are far from the burning sugar cane fields where the only life lies in some f the employees working there to contain the burning of the fields.[See this gallery of picture about Guatemalan sugar cane field] Little by little people are stopping to plant cocoa trees or even harvest the cocoa pods from the trees they already have because the price paid to the cocoa farmer is too low for the work that has to be done. Also the history of Guatemala has not helped the growing of cocoa: Above are listed some of the reasons why Guatemala dropped from one of the main producing countries 500 years ago to one of the least: 16-17th century: Pirates blocked the seas to export cocoa and some of the cocoa fields were replaced by cochinilla fields (which was a natural colorant widely used at that time) 1870: Big investment to grow café in Guatemala by Germany replace some cocoa farms by coffee farms (even at low altitude) 1945: After world war II, German owners are expropriated and land is given back to land owners in Guatemala. They don't plant cocoa trees or remove them because the crop requires too much workers 1959-1996: Civil war in Guatemala and no investments are made in the cocoa plantations 2010: The disease "monilia" kills a lot of cocoa trees which are not replaced by other cocoa trees but sugar cane plantation or rubber trees 2011: Hurricane Stan destroys a big part of the production by removing all the flowers from the cocoa trees Even if the scene depicted in this article seems pretty dark, some interesting projects are starting to rise: Pepe (72 years old) has planted 7000 Trinitario trees on his land and is hoping to get his first crop in one year (see picture) Some associations of farmers are starting to appear to help cocoa farmers finance the maintenance of their trees and find markets for their cacao. One example is ASECAN (Asociacion de Sembradores de Cacao de la cuenca de Nahualate) which is helped by ChocoMuseo. The project is to bring people to this community and teach them about the cocoa tree and the great ecosystem surrounding it. Cacao (or Cocoa) has all the reasons to be a fabulous agricultural product and it has to be protected. If you love fine chocolate, please share this article. Alain Schneider - Owner of ChocoMuseo

Write a comment

Comments: 25
  • #1

    Jeffray D. Gardner (Tuesday, 01 October 2013 21:33)

    Thank you for your informative article Alain. Are you located in Guatemala?

  • #2

    Alain Schneider (Wednesday, 02 October 2013 02:36)

    Hello Jeffray,
    One of our ChocoMuseo is located in Antigua, Guatemala. You can find more info on this website in the section "Our locations".
    As for me, I live now in Peru and work with great varieties of cacao from Peru.
    Alain

  • #3

    michiel hoogendijk (Friday, 22 November 2013 12:53)

    Cocoa as a crop has always been highly mobile and has moved all over the world, leaving behind deforestated areas cultivated with other crops (such as palmoil and sugar). This is due to the nature of the crop, which needs shade to become productive. At early stage of the plantation the crop yields well. When nutrients begin to deplete, the producer begins to gradually remove the shade trees because the light results in improved production at the short time, in turn leading to the removal of all shade trees. When production doesn't recover, the plantation is either abandoned or replaced by other crops such as palm oil, or indeed, sugarcane. This process is frequently known as the boom-and-bust-cycle and is typical for cocoa AND one of the main reasons of deforestation as a result of cocoa.
    Now that there is very little original forest left, producers can no longer use virgin forests to start their plantations and have to recover and reforestate existing systems. In itself this is a very opportunity for smallholder farmers, and has the potential for diversification at farm level.
    Literature can be found on the internet, there are some very fine literature resources around - otherwise give me a message through LinkedIn.

  • #4

    Mariajosé Beghelli (Saturday, 23 November 2013 15:15)

    Great answer to my question thx for this article.

  • #5

    durranifarms (Tuesday, 18 March 2014 10:42)

    These are actually wonderful some ideas in the blog. You have touched good quality points here. In whatever way continue writing.

  • #6

    freddy (Thursday, 01 May 2014 17:26)

    Planting is by seed or bastago, and as time grows and starts producing COCOA, and if each year produces or is the cycle

  • #7

    fidias rivera (Monday, 06 October 2014 18:37)

    I just been yesterday at your location in Antigua Guatemala. Congratulations. I took the workshop and like mor information about cacao plantation and chocolate process.
    I would like to grow cacao and help farmers in El Salvador.
    Do you like to visit and help farmers here?

    Fidias.

  • #8

    Melanie (Tuesday, 21 April 2015 03:27)

    We purchased some of your chocolate in Antigua recently and wish I had brought more back with us. How can we get it in the U.S.? Thank you, Melanie

  • #9

    Marta Acha (Saturday, 18 July 2015 22:14)

    Hi Alain,
    Thanks for the information. I will be visiting the chocomuseo in Antigua. I also visit Peru a lot as I have family there. I am very interested in the cocoa farming and would love a tour in Peru.
    Gracias,
    Marta

  • #10

    Pedro Garcia (Monday, 12 October 2015 02:31)

    Hi ,
    Thanks for the info on cacao, I am interested in cacao farming in Livingston Guatemala where I have some land accessible for that purpose. I am informing myself on how to cultivate this product and I welcome ideas on such and also marketing. Please help me in anyways possible to get a small cacao farm going. It will be well appreciated.

    Pedro

  • #11

    yousra (Thursday, 18 February 2016 23:11)

    hi there I moved from Europe to Guatemala and in went a few time to your chocolate museum that I loved so much , I would love to know a bit more about chocolate and get familiar with it would it be possible to contacte me to my email adresse yousraelbouazzati@gmail.com

    I would love to meet you and discuss and learn from your experience with the cacao ...

    thanks

  • #12

    yousra (Friday, 19 February 2016 17:41)

    address email; yousraelbouazzati.00@gmail.com

  • #13

    gsgs (Saturday, 20 February 2016 20:38)

    I found this when wondering why Guatemala had and has one of the lowest
    coronary heart disease mortalities in the world (since ~1930 when it starte in USA)

  • #14

    Wayne Moore (Friday, 15 July 2016 17:01)

    Just doing some research about cacao in Guatemala and ran across this, good info - thanks!

  • #15

    LUCIA TRAPAGA (Tuesday, 11 October 2016 02:59)

    Buenas tardes,

    Soy Lucía Trápaga, exportadora de café y cacao a Europa
    Deseo saber costos de envío marítimo de 2000 kilos de café y cacao a HUNGRÍA.
    Costos por kilo de cacao y/o café. Precio al por menor y mayor.
    Asimismo, saber si Uds. posee licencia certificada para exportar estos productos
    en grano de GUATEMALA A HUNGRÍA.
    Formas de pago, formas de envío, tiempo en llegar al destino y otros detalles que se consideren importante.
    Les agradecía mucho su respuesta.

    Muy amables, saludos

    LUCÍA TRÁPAGA
    55539678

  • #16

    Dyck Cotrina (Tuesday, 20 December 2016 23:04)

    Hi yousra, if you are interested to make chocolate just like Alain at the Chocomuseo, please email me at d.cotrina@cocoatown.com Once you have access to cacao, the process to make real chocolate is quite simple. I can tell you how step by step. Saludos! - DC

  • #17

    write my research paper for me - Masterpaperwriters.com (Wednesday, 01 March 2017 12:46)

    We are a extended way from the burning sugar stick field where the major life lies in a number of the representatives operational there to hold the on fire of the fields.

  • #18

    My-paper-writer (Wednesday, 08 March 2017 11:15)

    We are an amplified path from the blazing sugar stick field where the real life lies in some of the delegates operational there to hold the ablaze of the fields.

  • #19

    3d animation videos (Saturday, 11 March 2017 15:04)

    While local quiche chefs put fresh spins on the frailty, chocolate is nothing new to Guatemala, an exciting starting point when looking at the narration of chocolate.

  • #20

    PromoOcodes.com (Thursday, 23 March 2017 12:49)

    I love the way you describe your experience in Guatemala.You shared a wonderful information about Cacao.I love chocolate. Thanks for sharing.

  • #21

    Kedj52@yahoo.com (Monday, 17 April 2017 21:37)

    Hi

    Do you have cacao to cacao cermoni?

  • #22

    Vincent (Monday, 24 April 2017 04:14)

    Where is the Museo in Antigua? Do you have contact info? Also is Pepe still alive? I was wondering how his trees are doing and his reforestation effort.

  • #23

    Cara menyembuhkan lambung perih (Monday, 01 May 2017 05:04)

    thank u so much admin and sorry permission share in here

  • #24

    replica watches (Tuesday, 02 May 2017 10:19)

    thanks for sharing

  • #25

    Obat asma alami (Wednesday, 24 May 2017 09:36)

    Thank u so much admin and sorry permission share in here