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FLR349 Cacao Processing Workshop

01 November 2022

Cacao is one of the crops that is encouraged to be planted by farmers along with a diverse mix of other crops in the FLR349 solution model. Although cacao is a perennial crop that contributes to a mixed agriculture system well, issues that have arose are when cacao are ready for harvest. The farmers are unable to find market places for the produce in the area. Factories will only purchase cacao that have already been processed, something the FLR349 members are still lacking knowledge on.

Cacao plant prior to processing
 
Therefore, WWF invited smallholder farmers from Nan and Mae Chaem Districts who are growing cacao to attend the ‘Cacao Processing Workshop’ at HillTribe Cocoa Cof Doi Saket District, Chiang Mai Province. The aim of the workshop was the development of cacao processing skills and to make the food chain more complete.

 Smallholder farmers preparing cacao plant for processing
 
When we are discussing cacao processing, most people – including the farmers – are only aware of the end product of chocolate. But in reality, every step in the cacao processing process can be ulitised in some way.  Cacao is an economic crop that promotes a circular economy. There is no waste left over. When we process cacao, other than chocolate we also get cacao juice, which as a sweet flavour can be served with coffee or fermented as wine. The white pulp on the cacao beans can be consumed. As for the shell, they can be dried as used as container or composted.

 Cacao juice can be served with butterfly pea tea or coffee
 
Ms Siriya Pulek, the expert who led the workshop, provided knowledge on every facet of cacao to the FLR349 members. Everything from cultivation to marketing of the products was covered. Attendees learnt about the types of cacao, the unique taste and smells created by the area, fermentation and drying process, as well as processing cocoa powder and chocolate.

Ms Siriya Pulek, cacao expert who led the processing workshop
 
The workshop taught knowledge at all levels. From the basic/small scale where the cacao are processed using only a roasting pan and stone mortar, to community or small enterprise level, to large scale factory processing. Attendees gained knowledge which could be adapted and applied to their own project areas.
 
Although the attending members may not have the funds to open a chocolate processing factory themselves, they still gained enough knowledge on the processing processes that they are ensured an increase in income through gaining the ability to sell to factories. This is especially because currently there is not enough chocolate and cacao powder being produced by factories to meet the demand of the market. From 100 trees, 300-500 kilograms of dried/processed cacao beans can be harvested. These beans can be sold to the market for 60-120 baht per kilograms, generating an income of 3000-5000 baht per month for the smallholder farmers.
 
Organisng this workshop to encourage farmers to transition away from maize towards cacao was a positive thing and proved to be a success. The transition promotes a healthy community while it generates green economies in Chiang Mai and Nan provinces as well.
 
Cacao Processing Process

Fresh cacao beans that will be fermented for 3 days before being dried. 

After fermentation the cacao beans are then dried to remove moisture

After drying, the beans are roasted 

Once the beans are roasted, the husks are removed and the cocoa beans are separated to be processed further. What is left over can be composted

The roasted cacao beans are grounded to remove the oils. The grounded beans are then then placed into molds to be refrigerated creating choclate. 

 
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Abhinand Aryapratheep
+662-618-4303-05
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