Brazilian cocoa growers are learning lessons from French wine makers.
Like producers of wine from France’s Champagne area, Brazil’s chocolate industry is using geographical indication, or GI labels with good results. These labels show where the cocoa comes from and its quality. The special labels can lead to higher prices on the market.
Henrique Almeida is the 63-year-old owner of a farm in Coaraci, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia. He is pleased with the "South Bahia" geographical indication for his cocoa.
"The production of fine cocoa and the creation of the geographical indication label make it possible to have a profitable business and pull our region upwards," Almeida said.
For many years, farmers in Bahia had produced common cocoa, used widely in the chocolate industry.
But in 1989, an outbreak of "witches' broom" disease sharply reduced the productivity of Bahia's cocoa trees. These trees make up to 86 percent of Brazil’s national crop.
At the time, Almeida, like other producers in southern Bahia, chose to improve the quality of his crop in order to be able to continue growing.
"When I bought the farm, standard cocoa prices were low, and cocoa farmers were unmotivated, while the chocolate market was doing well," he told the French news agency AFP. "I started growing fine cocoa to make my own chocolate and add value to my product."
The label is the result of 10 years of work by Almeida and other cocoa producers, as well as cooperatives and researchers. Together, they created the South Bahia Cocoa Association to define production rules. The National Institute of Industrial Property registered the GI in 2018 to make the label official.
The “South Bahia” label is the second GI given to Brazilian cocoa. The Linhares region in the state of Espirito Santo was the first GI to be registered in 2012. Tome-Acu in the northeastern state of Para became the third in 2019.