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.