Currently, 100% of Chocolate Riot’s cacao comes from Guatemala, a country rich in history, culture, and beautiful natural resources. But their health care system is not as robust as it needs to be to handle a pandemic, as is true worldwide. So what’s happening there right now in general and for the cacao farmers in particular?
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was on March 13, and there were 39 cases and one death on March 31. All of those stricken are in Guatemala City and Antigua and are being closely tracked and treated.
Anjuli Dharna, Sales Director at Uncommon Cacao, from whom we buy our cacao beans, says that as of now, COVID-19 has not been detected in any of their partners and farmers who are several hours away from the cities where the virus is.
“Right now is when a lot of cacao is being harvested, and that is continuing, because the agriculture industry is considered an essential industry, so the farmers are operating as they usually do,” Dharna said. “Everyone is being extremely careful. Farmers are always the most at-risk population, so even though they are producing as normal, they also of course need for the demand to be there.”
“These farmers can plant a garden in order to have food, but they still need actual money for everything else. We’re hoping that chocolate sales remain steady in the countries that use their cacao.”
While the harvest is proceeding normally, exporting the cacao has been a bit of a challenge since the onset of the coronavirus. The Guatemalan government has established a curfew from 4 pm to 4 am, public transportation has been halted, and some of the businesses that are links in the chain from farmer to exporter are seen as not critical, so have been prohibited from operating. An additional challenge to getting the cacao to market right now is that villages, in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, are blocking entry to all non-residents.
The ADIOESMAC cooperative -- the 64 farmers whose cacao goes into Chocolate Riot’s products -- fortunately received a Kiva loan at the start of the harvest season to help tide the farmers over. Additionally, Uncommon Cacao and their sister business Cacao Verapaz are doing everything in their power to support the farmers and get their harvest exported.
All of which is to say, it’s a good time to hold in our hearts everyone with this coronavirus in Guatemala and all over the world as well as those working to help keep the cacao industry going during this crisis.