La Siembra is a Canadian worker-owned co-operative dedicated to fair trade with small scale family farmers. One of our key farmer partners is the democratically-organized Farmers Association of Santa Rosa de Chiriari, whose member-growers grow cacao for export and their own crops for home use in the jungle region at the confluence of the Ene and Tambo rivers in Junin in Peru. La Siembra manager Tom Wilde interviewed Association Manager Claudio Morvelí earlier this year about the farmers’ experience in 2017.
Tom: How many farmers own the Association and how did the harvest come in in 2017?
Claudio: For the 2017 crop year, we worked with 75 member cacao farmers. The harvest was relatively good, as we had fairly regular rain during the year, especially during the flowering of the cacao trees. Those good rains lead us to have a crop throughout the year, which is nice.
Yields averaged 950 kilograms per hectare, but some members harvested 2500 kilograms per hectare. Those were the growers that recently renovated their farms and many are using some new varieties, like the improved criollo cacao plant, the VRAE, and several others. We are looking forward to 2018, as we will have 46 new member growers, bringing our total to 121 active farming families.
Tom: What kind of plans do you have for 2018?
Claudio: First and foremost, we are looking toward increasing productivity. We hope that during the 2018 harvest year, we can get average yield up to 1200 kilograms of cacao per hectare. We will also work on improving the quality of the cocoa beans by making changes to get the fermentation level to 80%, which is the level to begin getting into high quality cacao. All our beans are sold to Machu Picchu Foods (for use in Camino chocolate chips) and we know that the market is looking for continuous quality improvements.
The Farmers Association of Santa Rosa de Chiriari held its first General Assembly of the year in January. The agenda included a review of their 2017 financial results, a detailed review of the fair trade premiums earned from the 2017 harvest, and the decision by members of how they’d like to utilize the fair trade premiums within their 2018 work plan.