Begging for cocoa

Quaint techniques from centuries ago don’t make for a productive industry

Pidiendo cacao” – literally, begging for cocoa – is Venezuelan slang for “asking for a freebie.”

You know who’s “begging for cocoa” in a literal, not figurative sense? World markets, that’s who.

The quality of Venezuela’s cocoa is legendary. Cocoa plants all over the world have been cross-bred to make them resistant to plagues, but ours have been preserved, so much so that our cocoa is often times heralded as the world’s best.

But when you combine the world’s best cocoa with the world’s worst government … well, beans beging to rot in warehouses. The government revoked the “export permits” of many cocoa producers, and has still not amended the problem.

Reuters had a story on this a few weeks ago that we missed. Now, the AP’s Vicente Márquez and Hannah Dreier follow up. The value added:

“Venezuela’s fine cacao, the raw ingredient for chocolate, is among the most sought-after in the world. Yet sellers can’t get the crop to those who want it. The beans Machado processed with techniques in use since the 18th century are still sitting in burlap sacks on the same land where they were harvested with machetes and spread in the sun with wooden rakes. Workers say some of it is starting to go bad.

Alejandro Prosperi, a spokesman for Venezuela’s cacao association, said exporters have not been able to make shipments since January, and have 5,000 tons of cacao sitting in warehouses. Some smaller exporters had their licenses reinstated quickly, but larger firms remain shut down.”

I was looking for the “no comment from the Revolution” quip, but … surprise, surprise:

“Agriculture Minister Jose Luis Berroteran has not explained why the government cancelled export permits, but said the administration is working to resolve the issue and would make resuming exports a priority.”

He will probably get canned in a few weeks for violating the “don’t talk to journalists” policy.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. It’s things like this that make it impossible to shake off the sensation that someone is taking a perverse pleasure in destroying everything that’s good about Venezuela. A more frequent meaning for “pedir cacao” is to beg for mercy. Somewhat apposite in the context.

  2. “Agriculture Minister Jose Luis Berroteran has not explained why the government cancelled export permits, but said the administration is working to resolve the issue and would make resuming exports a priority.”

    Two words, the bane of whole Venezuela’s economy: DOLLAR MONOPOLY.

    chavismo has tried frantically to hoard all the foreign currency entering to Venezuela, in order to pocket as much as possible, and to ruin as many people as they can.

    And the punch in the face is the idiocy of maburro whining “stop asking for doooollaaarrsss!”

  3. My wife is from near Rio Caribe. I remember many times going to Playa Medina and passing the Cacao Museum, seeing the beans being dried on the strret. I have several paintings from the Cacao Museum of still lifes of the cacao before the beans are extracted and then dried. Some very good memories of a Venezuela that has been destroyed

    • Coffee is a similar product. Vzla used to produce some of the best in the world. Actually a friend of mine still has a remote production of some of the finest, stuck with production for only a couple local distributors for fancy cafetrias in CCS.

      Coming from “El Cafetal”, now we have to buy expensive coffee from Africa, from the USA or Europe, if we still want the best coffee.

      • Reasons:
        1. Coffee production in Venezuela is not on a scale that would warrant large investment in it as an industry.
        2. The governments of la cuarta had long brought coffee production under the state umbrella with all its myriad controls, a stance continued in la quinta.
        3. Venezuelan coffee growers sell their produce to Colombian wholesalers, who in turn, are able to pay more than the Venezuelan state, given the strength of the Colombian industry and its exporting infrastructure.

        • Here’s another: Chávez launched a billion-dollar plan to revive coffee production, and put the Cubans in charge of it. Their credentials? They had already destroyed their own coffee industry and were more than happy to apply their techniques in Venezuela.

  4. My guess is that the Cacao “industry” is just not important enough to get anyone’s attention. Compared to the huge guisos everywhere, the Polar issues, who cares about a few cacao producers, Chocolate? a product destined for the Swiss or Belgian Bourgeoisies..

    “Agriculture Minister Jose Luis Berroteran has not explained why the government cancelled export permits, but said the administration is working to resolve the issue and would make resuming exports a priority.”

    Corruptzuela is not even among the 15 top exporters, after many tiny African countries like Ghana.. Rum is obvioulsy much more important to the populace, as an industry and as a means to get shyt-faced and forget.

    They’ll probably miraculously facilitate said permits in a few days, now that the Cacao news suddenly hit the fan in International media. But who cares?

    They are much more concerned about importing more entire, new Power Plants from DerWicked Associates, that’s what makes Billions in cash profit overnight.

    • Part of the problem is that many of the best cocoa producing areas are in barlovento in so called peace zones where crime is rampant and there is no police protection to be had for any cocoa grower who wants to raise production and export his produce . Had a group of acquiantances who trained as a professional chocolatiers and had located a cocoa plantation where the best cocoa used to be grown and wanted to start a business growing it for export , went to the police to learn what was the area like and was told that under the peace zone arrangement they would be exposed to criminal activity almost any day without the police being able to do a thing. Of course they dropped the idea . Have tried their chocolate and its world class delicious and yet ……no way they can make a business of it.

      There are different qualities of beans produced in Venezuela , the best of them are so good that they are bought to mix with lower rated beans from Africa and other places to give the mix a much improved flavour.

      The govt intervened the formerly private cocoa export business handled by Beco Blohm duirn the years of CAP I , the business has been going down ever since then.

  5. Alright, I’ve looked at my choices and I’ve decided: I’m up for a long, nit-picky morning of dissecting the semantics of “pidiendo cacao.”

    Growing up, it definitely didn’t mean “asking for a freebie.” It meant more like begging to be bailed out of a bad situation you’ve gotten into through your own negligence or bad judgment. “Las aerolineas pasaron años volando contra AADs y ahora están pidiendo cacao…”

    “Jesse Chacón no hizo las inversiones que tenía que hacer en el sector electrico y ahora anda por ahí pidiendo cacao…”

    This El Universal piece interprets it more or less like that too, though perhaps a bit more broadly than I had.

    It’s pretty specific as far as idioms go, no? Or is it a broader thing that I’d misinterpreted?

    • Pelea e’ gallos:

      «pedir cacao», que significa «pedir perdón, rendirse», la cual sería una «alusión al grito particular que emiten los gallos de riña cuando huyen» (Alvarado, 1984 [1921], p. 78). Según Julio Calcaño, en efecto, «del cacareo del gallo que huye en la riña formaron tal frase los jugadores de gallos, y así dicen: pide o pidió cacao; está pidiendo cacao. Los chicos la aplican en sus luchas al vencido; y cuando éste cae derribado, el vencedor le fija la rodilla en el pecho y le obliga a pedir cacao. Si no consigue hacerlo decir cacao, recomienza la lucha» (Calcaño, 1950 [1896], p. 314). Gonzalo Picón registraba, por su parte, que «no haber quien le haga a uno un cacao» equivalía a «no haber persona alguna que lo iguale, venza, supere ó sobrepuje en cualquier forma ó sentido» (Picón, 1964 [1912], p. 309).

      Por último, «ser un gran cacao» significaba antiguamente, y todavía hoy día, «ser un magnate, un personaje de campanillas. Recuerdo de los tiempos coloniales, en que la riqueza consistía por lo principal en plantaciones de cacao»

      • Y’all need to be more like the Asian dialectics when parsing the meaning of some of these “semantic” issues- pick the mildest interpretation so no one is offended and move on. This continued debate is one of the reasons that the core of issues is never confronted but rather just the parameters. I will say overall though of all the blogs and websites I read, this is a true Brain Trust of intellectuals. Very refreshing after following some of the other assignments. i.e. etc. You are all way too smart and devoted to your patria to let Vz go the way of Cuba- do more than just blog- don’t stand by and watch this ship sink.

    • Nope, I’m from Maracaibo and the only meaning I remember for this is “begging for mercy” or “asking to be bailed out”. No East-West discrepancy as far as I know.

  6. Yo estoy pidiendo cacao con las noticias de Venezuela.

    I am starting to fear that we have joined the club of basket case countries such as Zimbabwe, Iran, North Korea and Latin America’s lefty fixation, Cuba. Firmly under the boot, for generations!, of Mesozoic tyrants.

    Two heart breaking comments from las colas del automercado:

    -Dona 1: “place looks empty”, Dona Chavista happily replies “don’t worry, yesterday it was fully stocked”.

    -Dona Chavista 2: “Oh common, being in the cola is kind of fun”

    Any hopeful news as of late out there? Even Aporrea writers, are pissed off however they ask for more drastic communist measures to ‘profundizar la revolucion’.

    Maybe ‘el pueblo’ wasn’t so ‘bravo’ after all.

          • Seldom do people just make a queue a day , more often than not people make several queues a day, that means going from place to place in public transportation or in carritos or in a relatives motorcycle , you find one thing in one place , something else in another, seldom all you are looking for is found in one place. standing in queue is tiresome , uncomfortable , specially if you are carrying bags and children and if the sun is upon you and its hot and you spend hours doing it. !! Unles you are a masochist doing the queues is nothing pleasant , also if you work , you queue while feeling stressed that you have to go back to your job by a certai time . If the queue is for a pdval or a bicentenario you have to usually start really early , like 5 or 6 am or your place in the queue makes it uncertain that by the end of the line the stuff you are looking for is still there. Queues turn nice when you get to the end of the line and you find what you are looking for , thats really gratifying , the sense of accomplishment is very real, also if you find nice people to talk to , specially if it means blowing off steam against the dammed govt rascals who steal everything and force you to the hardship of standing in long queues and suffering constant shortages and paying through you nose for things that were so much less expensive just a few weeks ago.

          • I wonder if the people in the queue actually know that this kind of hardship to buy groceries don’t exist in any other country of South America. Do they really know this? That even the people in the poorest south american countries like Bolivia or Ecuador can find food quite easily? Or do they think that scarcity is widespread because of the “crisis/lower price of the oil barrel”?

          • interesting question that leads to an idea:

            using a wide-angle lens in each location, photograph various (non) queues around Latam, and place under the rubro: “SIN COLAS: economías bien manejadas”. On the other side, place several photographs of lo-o-ong queues in Vzla, under the heading “CON COLAS: economía mal manejada”.

  7. Not my experience at all , people if not downright angry are looking glum as they spend hours waiting to get inside and try and buy what they need . Heavy sarcasm is most peoples response to the situation. There is of course a diehard percentage (20 odd %) who will idiotize themselves into inventing excuses for what happening no matter what . .

  8. Re post and the government’s ineptitude to proceed on a timely basis with the needed permisología for cacao exports, I would ask: Why do “Workers say some of it is starting to go bad.”?

    In the absence of journalistic questioning of that issue (in order to frame within a political context), I wonder If the cacao beans have not been properly dried/processed before bagging — the responsibility of the producers.

    • It is possible for cacao bean to go bad if not shipped to market and processed soon. Just like Coffee, for example. Cacao will loose its freshness and some qualities by sitting is burlap bags for too long. The same happens to coffee. That is the reason your coffee comes in vacuum packed bags and tins..

      • For several years one of our clients was responsible for arranging the shipment of coco beans into Canada from West Africa. I did the chartering of the ships for the voyages from the Ivory Coast and Ghana and I remember the problem with claims when the cargo wasn’t properly ventilated or their had been delays. The claims would go on for months and years and the dollar amounts were generally huge. A product that needs to be expedited in transport, having it sit in a hot, stuffy warehouse in Venezuela will destroy the quality and value very quickly

        • does it mean that unlike completely dried coffee beans (greeney-grey in colour, before they are exported for roasting/distributing), cocoa beans still have a moisture content before bagging in a burlap bag?

          • Initially they are very wet with a gooey substance that is secreted and doesnt smell that nice , they are put in special bats for all that goo to fall , then they are spread thinly along large cement coartyards for long periods to be sun dried . Some relatives had a Cocoa plantation going back to colonial times close to Caracas and they would tell me how they prepared the cocoa for sale to the end purchasers , the beans would be graded for quality and then priced . their cocoa was usually top grade and would be exported but the exporting would be done by the export company who would also lend them the money needed to operate the plantation until the beans were ready for sale. There were years when the sale of export cocoa could bring in a lot of money and the plantations owners could travel for months to far away europe and enjoy life in the big cities .

          • You are shipping from a hot and humid climate to a colder one and hence there are many temperature and humidity changes enroute. If you don’t have the ventilation absolutely correct then there will be moisture problems and the possibility of moulds or rusts developing which degrade or destroy the value of the product and result in claims and much time with the lawyers.

  9. I still remember, many, many years ago. I was a child going to the bodega down the street from our house to buy a few “Bolitas de Cacao” They were not expensive and they cost 1 “locha” each. My mother would put one in holt milk and it made a wonderful and potent chocolate drink.

    Then there was the fabulous Venezuelan coffee. My mother preferred the wonderful and potent Cafe Imperial. Of course, the only way to grind it was fine espresso grind. The only way to make it was drip style using a a cloth “collador” that was stained dark from use.

    It is sad to see how two extremely popular items that were consumed by rich and poor alike from the beginning of the country, could be so badly mishandled. Everyone with half a brain knows that the Venezuelan cacao is the best on Earth.

    Cacao should be to Venezuela was tobacco is to Cuba. They are just fools if they don’t realize what a rich resource they are sitting on,

  10. There is something about Chavismo that just cannot tolerate excellence. Whenever they encounter excellence they go out of their way to destroy it. Meanwhile, they revel and rejoice in their own mediocrity.

  11. No doubt, someone inside Chavismo is inventing a company which will enjoy a monopoly on cacao exportation. All producers will be forced to sell to this company at government dictated prices in Bs., and the company will receive dollars. In no time at all, the production will be destroyed, and the Chavistas will look for some else to loot.

    • Cacao..Naahh.. Buying Used Power Plants, adding a 100% mark up, and selling them as new is a much Cooler business, especially for our lovely, upcoming Summer months.

      Watch Masburro start the flamboyant “Power Plant” inaugurations in August, much like Chabruto did around 2009.. they’ll last a few months. But we’re talking Thousands of Millions at 100% profit in cash.

      Quedate tu con tu cacao.

  12. I can buy good Venezuelan chocolate and coffee at a number of stores within walking distance of my home located north of the 49th parallel. I cannot do that in Venezuela. So I have to think, whatever little is being produced, is reserved for export, just like colonial times. Thank you Nicolas.

  13. Willies wonky chocolate factory is worth reading up on He has a cacao farm in choroni and makes the (worlds best )chocolate in Devon using old Spanish machinery and traditional conching roasting and winnowing teqniques . And sells it in Harrods for mucho dinero

  14. Well the title is a bit confusing – it is the whole expression pidiendo cacao which means begging. Asking for a freebie? No clue where that came from.

    • They must be on ACID in the UN..

      “During a high-level ceremony attended by several heads of state, 18 countries received diplomas for early achievement of targets set by both Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG1) — to halve the proportion of hungry people by 2015 — plus the more stringent World Food Summit (WFS) goal of halving the absolute number of hungry people by 2015.

      They are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Djibouti, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Nicaragua, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Thailand, Turkmenistan,Venezuela and Viet Nam.”

  15. Funny that Human Rights Watch has just said that Venezuela is starting to resemble a warzone!

    “El director Ejecutivo para las Américas de HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco, afirmó que “pocas veces hemos visto, fuera de zonas en guerra, un deterioro tan rápido en el acceso a medicamentos esenciales como en Venezuela”; dijo que las políticas públicas implementadas por el Ejecutivo han causado la escasez, y que la vida y salud de decenas de miles de personas están en riesgo en el país.”

    Someone must be lying!

  16. Export permits???

    I can think of only two possible justifications for export permits. One is if the commodity is arms or arms-related technology; the nation has an interest in not supplying such goods to hostile countries or to outlaws.

    The other is that the commodity is essential (e.g. fuel, food) and domestic needs approximately equal or exceed domestic supply.

    Neither applies here. Nor, I expect, to nearly all of the other goods subjected to this process.

    This is a result of idiotic doctrinaire statism in the chavernment, and careless, unthinking, incompetent application of the expansive and unnecessary powers they have taken.

    The suggestion that blocking cacao exports is a clever move to monopolize $ earnings is intriguing, but probably incorrect. Cacao is very small beer compared to oil. “Never assume malice where incompetence is sufficient.”

    • It isn’t a monopoly unless you control every single unit of the commodity you seek to hoard.

      The lambucios kleptocrats are scratching the pot, desperate to find more ways to monopolize dollars, after all, the cuban stupidity can’t allow people to even eat for themselves, because you can’t control them then.

    • Controlling things gives the controller a sense of dominance and power that ingratiatingly flatters his inflated ego , even better if it allows him the chance of denying a permit for reasons he makes up whole cloth , there doenst have to be a reason for controlling , only the inner gratification of the empowered person at feeling mightier than those he controls.

      Remember years ago the doorman to a govt office which had to handle a lot of permits , he insisted on being shown the filings and then giving his opinion on them , he loved it when he discovered something which he thought objectionable , you could see him puff up and with a contained smirk advise the person that its papers were unacceptable.!! He became the first hurdle in a long and difficult permitting process.

      The more insignificant the person the more luciously he strives to become an obstacle to any permit getting approved !!

  17. maburro in other of his bipolar episodes almost kneeling and then barking bullshit to the clowns forced to liste his crap:

    Raise of 30% in salaries, guess it’s time to raise everything by 30% then, gotta love the “stop being so individualistic, you’ve to consider me first! waaahhh!” whining of maburro.

    • Sorry but if, say, 30% of Vzlans stil buy this crap, and another 50% are still working for the Regime, and another 20% are enchufados, one way or another (wild guess), Corruptzuela, then, is getting what it deserves.

      • Not 30%, it’s 10% since 2005 (including enchufados). And that 10% has guns even in their asses, so they threaten the other 90%, the “they deserve it” doesn’t do anything to solve it.

  18. Cacao or not, let’s hope the Masburristas are stupid enough to mess with grupo Polar.

    Ironically, the best that can happen is that they “nationalize” Polar, send some “pelucones” to prison.. That would surely ruin the company and exacerbate the Escasez problem. Unfortunately, more queues and lack of food items may be exactly what the populace needs to wake up and get pissed off.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here