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Bolivia: Wild cocoa from the Bolivian jungle

General information
Project location: Itenez and Mamoré regions, Bolivia
Consortium: Pronatec AG , Rainforest Exquisite Products SA
Project Budget: Euro 503,000
External financing: 50% grant funding by PSI
Project period: January 2010 – June 2012

Rainforest Exquisite Products SA (REPSA) from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is nearing completion of its project to improve the collection system for wild cocoa beans that are harvested from the Bolivian jungle and end up in some of the finest Swiss chocolate products.

About 10 years ago, REPSA pioneered the export of cocoa beans collected from wild trees in the Bolivian jungle. The beans were purchased by Felchlin, a Swiss chocolate maker, which was interested to introduce a special line of wild harvest chocolate products. The company had to adapt its production process to handle the wild beans which are much smaller than cultivated cocoa beans. Wild cocoa beans fetch a price that is twice the world market price for ordinary beans. This reflects the hard work that goes into collecting the beans from the thick jungle, the small volumes that can be harvested, the low proportion of beans that meet Swiss quality standards and the costly export from what some of the most logistically challenged locations in the world.

With a view to reduce supply chain inefficiencies and increase the export, Advance Consulting assisted REPSA to design and implement a project to improve the collection of wild-harvest cocoa beans. The project qualified for 50% grant funding by the Private Sector Investment (PSI) programme with the balance contributed by REPSA and its Swiss trading partner Pronatec AG. Core of the project concerned the upgrading of the collection system in the Itenez region and expansion into the Mamoré region. In these remote Amazonian areas, cocoa trees occur in relatively high densities in so-called ‘chocolatales’. The collection centres have been fitted with fermentation, drying and storage facilities. REPSA works with some 800 collectors, who have been equipped with a basic toolkit and trained to better meet quality standards so that a higher percentage of beans can be exported. As a result, collectors get a higher reward for their efforts, REPSA’s turnover is improved and the sustainability of this unique supply chain is strengthened.

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