Chontalpa Cacao

Mexico

Cacao

Back to the archive >
Chontalpa Cacao

Chontalpa, one of the five regions in the Mexican state of Tabasco, is famous for its cacao production. In this area of the country extending along the Tehuantepec isthmus, cultivation and consumption of cacao have been an integral part of people’s lives since the time of the Olmec civilization. Professor Michael D. Coe, a leading scholar of Pre-Colombian Anthropology, stated that, “the first human in history to taste chocolate was probably an Olmec living 3000 years ago in the swampy jungles of southeastern Mexico.”
The word cacao derives from kakaw, a term used by various groups of native Mexican Indians and borrowed by the Olmec Mixe-Zoquean language. Cacao has played a central role in the economy and traditions of this area ever since then. Latest estimates show that the State of Tabasco is the main producer of cacao in Mexico: 67% of its area is dedicated to the crop and the state accounts for about 80% of total Mexican production. The top-producing region in Tabasco is Chontalpa, an area with particularly favorable growing conditions and the recognized origin of the Criolla variety. The main varieties now grown in Chontalpa are Forastero (also called locally Calabacillo), Trinitario (or Puntudo) and, to a very limited extent, Criollo. The cacao production season in Chontalpa extends from October to April-May, the months when the prevailing hot and humid climate with abundant rainfall, gives way to a relatively dry period. The areas cultivated for cacao provide additional resources for producers: tall fruit trees (such as coconut, avocado, mango, citron or mamey) rise above the cacao trees, providing the necessary shade, while banana, papaya, pumpkins and peppers are grown underneath.
Though cacao plays a central role in the lives of small agricultural producers in Chontalpa, they face constant difficulties. Lack of access to credit, and the distance from markets willing to pay a premium for quality, means that they cannot get technical assistance, deal with hygiene issues, process the cacao using proper equipment and methods or supply a semi-processed product guaranteeing satisfactory returns. The local market is the only market that producers can access and intermediaries impose their own conditions.
Moreover, between October and November 2007, the states of Tabasco and Chiapas were devastated by terrible floods: 70% of Tabasco was covered with water. The most serious damage was to the agricultural sector, with 160,000 hectares of cultivated land lost from a total of 240,000. The flooding exacerbated an already critical situation for cacao producers, worsening the effect of frosty pod rot (moniliasis), a fungal disease which has in recent years halved plant productivity and continues to this day to afflict producers.

Back to the archive >
After the 2007 floods, Slow Food organized fundraising initiatives among members to help the Chontalpa cocoa producers and give a boost to the cocoa production system in the province. The financial solidarity from these groups enabled creation of “Restoration of the agro-ecological system for cocoa in Tabasco, Mexico” (Restablecimiento del Agroecosistema Cacao en Tabasco) project. This is in collaboration with ATCO (Asesoría Técnica en Cultivos Orgánicos), a local NGO, and has been organized into two distinct phases. The first phase covers an area of 720 hectares and involves emergency action to help the local community resume cocoa production, with a particular focus on phytosanitary issues. The second phase of the project has resulted in the establishment of the Chontalpa Cocoa Presidium. The Presidium identified a small group of producers who grow organic cocoa and process it using traditional methods. Together with the producers and technicians from the Foundation, a series of production rules have been established and training activities for producers on growing and processing methods have been organized. Simultaneously, the cocoa beans were promoted to small-scale artisans, in order to encourage an international market that pays growers a higher price than what they usually receive. As of 2014, the company Guido Gobino has been collaborating with the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to buy the entire output of the Presidium. This means that they will be working towards the first Slow Food Presidium chocolate brand.

Production area
José María Morelos y Pavón (C-11), Benito Juárez García (C-21) and José María Pino Suarez (C-22), Cárdenas municipality, Plátano y Cacao community, Centro municipality, Miahuatlán community, Cunduacán municipality, Tabasco.

Technical partners
ATCO (Asesoría Técnica en Cultivos Orgánicos)
Guido Gobino
About 70 producers participating in various organisations from Cardenas, Centro and Cunduacán municipalities
Coordinator
Alma Rosa Garcés Medina
Tel. +52 55 55796425 casa, +52 55 57851551 fabrica
atcovillahermosa@yahoo.com.mx
After the 2007 floods, Slow Food organized fundraising initiatives among members to help the Chontalpa cocoa producers and give a boost to the cocoa production system in the province. The financial solidarity from these groups enabled creation of “Restoration of the agro-ecological system for cocoa in Tabasco, Mexico” (Restablecimiento del Agroecosistema Cacao en Tabasco) project. This is in collaboration with ATCO (Asesoría Técnica en Cultivos Orgánicos), a local NGO, and has been organized into two distinct phases. The first phase covers an area of 720 hectares and involves emergency action to help the local community resume cocoa production, with a particular focus on phytosanitary issues. The second phase of the project has resulted in the establishment of the Chontalpa Cocoa Presidium. The Presidium identified a small group of producers who grow organic cocoa and process it using traditional methods. Together with the producers and technicians from the Foundation, a series of production rules have been established and training activities for producers on growing and processing methods have been organized. Simultaneously, the cocoa beans were promoted to small-scale artisans, in order to encourage an international market that pays growers a higher price than what they usually receive. As of 2014, the company Guido Gobino has been collaborating with the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to buy the entire output of the Presidium. This means that they will be working towards the first Slow Food Presidium chocolate brand.

Production area
José María Morelos y Pavón (C-11), Benito Juárez García (C-21) and José María Pino Suarez (C-22), Cárdenas municipality, Plátano y Cacao community, Centro municipality, Miahuatlán community, Cunduacán municipality, Tabasco.

Technical partners
ATCO (Asesoría Técnica en Cultivos Orgánicos)
Guido Gobino
About 70 producers participating in various organisations from Cardenas, Centro and Cunduacán municipalities
Coordinator
Alma Rosa Garcés Medina
Tel. +52 55 55796425 casa, +52 55 57851551 fabrica
atcovillahermosa@yahoo.com.mx