The promising future of Guarataro Cocoa
Without a cocoa tradition, but with an extraordinary agricultural potential, the Bolivar state, located in south eastern Venezuela, has a promising future as a producer of Venezuelan cacao.
Although it is known for its mineral wealth sources such as gold and iron, the hydroelectric power generation and Guayana industries, created as an alternative to non-oil dependant country, is also a privileged land for the development of various crops.
Cocoa is perhaps the most important of them. Its historical trajectory as a strategic product for Venezuelan economy as well as its great potential, make it an alternative to the obvious production problems of non-renewable resources such as oil.
Among other sectors, in Bolívar state this “sweet gold” is present in the town of Guarataro, a community with a great agricultural vocation located in the Sucre municipality, where there is undoubtedly a progressive interest in the cultivation and processing of cocoa.
A rising route
There, a group of at least 30 or 40 producers stands out, taking advantage of the countless properties of the generous fruit. It is a unique route that we started in Ciudad Bolivar. We have to take the trunk 19 via Maripa, capital of the municipality Sucre.
One of main sectors on this route is La Reforma, located right at the first intersection of this road. Then we continue towards La Zamura, an emblematic mountainous area where the oldest producers are located. Specifically in the Palo Quemao sector, Gerarado Velasco’s outstanding work is noticeable, considered the most experienced producer.
He belongs to a group of Colombian migrants who came to these lands a few years ago, bringing knowledge and tradition of cocoa from their country. They are considered pioneers along with other farmers from Sucre state and towns like Ciudad Bolivar.
Cocoa Guarataro, as it has been named the cocoa type produced there (it is also named so to distinguish it from the cocoa Alto Caura or Yekuana cocoa) which previously represented a very small percentage, but now it has taken its impetus.
A genetic mosaic
On this route, there are also sectors such as La Luisa, where producers from other regions have come, gained by good lands and favourable climatic conditions.
Cocoa is an increasingly attractive option. The raise of prices in the world market is just one of many reasons why this seed has become a livelihood alternative for Venezuelan producers.
The economist Albe Gorrin is convinced of this. For him, cocoa represents an excellent investment. He states that expert agronomists from different regions of the country have praised the variety and quality of types of cocoa from Guarataro.
“There is a genetic variety represented by more than nine types of Venezuelan cocoa with particular features, including Criollo Porcelana. They are very special hybrids that have nothing to envy to any other cocoa in the country,” The director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Bolivar state claims. An organisation through which has been promoting the cocoa potential of this region.
Premature but productive
In addition to having fairly healthy plantations with high quality genetic types, Guarataro trees are premature being this a condition that allows “to having cocoa throughout the year”.
As the owner of Cacao Guarataro CA also points out “the conditions of land and climate conditions are so favourable that while in other parts of the country a cocoa tree begins to produce from four or five years old, here a tree may be producing from it is two years old”.
That is very good because well managed (by irrigation system) it might produce at least four crops per year. “In areas like Barlovento and South Lake there are places where it rains a lot throughout the year, influencing the cultivation. We have an important comparative advantage over the rest of the country. ”
Their own effort
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Guarataro producers is to have begun and maintained a movement without the support of government programmes, as it has happened in other cocoa areas in Venezuela.
As the investment is theirs, it is also the identity of a cocoa that, by using the appropriate procedures, could become a national and international reference.
Public policies support is also needed in other areas, such as roadways, one of the most serious problems in the area. Albe Gorrin says: “We have the support of some who want to invest due to the potential, but this influences and, this is the national government responsibility.”
He also remarks that this land has not been affected by expropriations as it has happened in other states and this should be taken advantage of, “we have a relative relief compared with other areas,” he says. “The price has been increasing every day, and also the demand has been increasing with the incorporation of countries like China and Russia. This is good news for all producers as this product seen in the future is a very good investment, “he insists.
The future Guarataro chocolate
The cocoa that is produced in Guarataro is already fermented. However, the process has some deficiencies which affect quality. These shortcomings are precisely those that must be overcome to undertake other projects such as the manufacture of chocolate, which as yet did not exist in Bolivar state.
That seems to be the goal. Albe Gorrin indicates that some tests have been carried out with satisfactory results. It is only an experimental phase until now, but he does not doubt that it will be a reality sooner rather than later.
“The important thing is that we use our cocoa, made here, and because of that, we have to promote it,” he says while stressing that the goal is to have it known as cocoa Guarataro or at least as the cocoa from Bolivar state.
Taking advantage of today impetus, he does not doubt that it will be a product adapted to the international standards, as it happens with the cocoas Chuao or Paria.
Increasing and improving the cultivation of cocoa Guarataro implies great challenges, being one of them to exalt the product identity as well as to emphasize the strengths of the local initiative, from the sowing of plantations to commercialization.
The main concern from the Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Bolivar state is to have the work of producers recognized. “Almost all the production goes to Miranda and it is reckoned up in the figures of that area. As it is not handled as cocoa from Bolivar state, it is not possible to make known the work that is being done “.
As in other areas of the country, Guarataro producers also need support and technical assistance in order to improve the quality of their plantations and increase production levels.
Albe Gorrin indicates that “the idea is to bring technicians and specialists who guide and improve many practices in planting and seed preparation.”
In addition to the cocoa production in Guarataro, Gorrin points out other local activities such as the cultivation of the sarrapia or the promotion of an important gastronomic movement in Ciudad Bolívar as ways to promote and contribute to the development of the capital of Bolivar state.
Back to the countryside
It is indubitable, the great variety of wealth sources of Guayana, gold, aluminium, iron, diamond, bauxite, coltrán and many others. These are minerals with important commercialization worldwide, promoters of a highly profitable economy.
However, cocoa represents the return to that countryside which, unlike mining or oil, is an endless source of means.
Compared with the rest of the country, Guarataro is still a very new area. Nevertheless, the predictions are positive. It is undeniable that we continue seeking to retake that seat of honour that we had before and still today identifies us as the country with the best cocoa in the world.
There is still much to do. But the dedication and passion that the producers of Guarataro have put to the cultivation of cocoa brings us closer to the goal of becoming important producers of hailed and recognized Venezuelan cacao, and why not?, in manufacturers of a unique chocolate, with identity, flavour and aroma characteristic of southern Venezuela.