The fact that the Dominican Republic is today one of the world’s largest exporters of organic cocoa is due in large part to Conacado’s pioneering efforts and sustained innovation. Since 1985, when the Confederation of Dominican Cacao Farmers (Conacado) was born from the cooperation of the German and Dominican governments, Conacado has striven to transform the industry and produce top quality organic cocoa. They currently export around 70% of their production to Europe and 30% to the United States, and are actively opening trade markets in Asia, particularly Japan. “We started as an NGO at a time when international cocoa prices were very low and producers were practically abandoning the crop. We began working on certified organic cocoa production and that produced a huge change. By increasing quality, we were able to raise domestic prices and make the cocoa market more competitive both internally and abroad” assures Mr. Isidoro De la Rosa, president of Grupo Conacado.
Grupo Conacado’s methodology combines the latest technology with traditional harvesting methods to ensure the premium quality of their products. First, working with around 10.000 small producers and a team of over 50 technicians specialized in sustainable cocoa cultivation, they implement an ecologically-sustainable agroforestry system that has been historically implemented in the Dominican Republic. As Mr. De la Rosa explains, “our small producers have a system that combines cocoa plants with forest trees, fruit trees and other trees for family consumption. It is a diverse system that meets all the parameters of environmental preservation and has been traditionally applied.”
Then, they transform their top quality organic product in their state-of-the art processing plant in San Francisco de Macorís, which was inaugurated last year with longtime associates Dutch company Royal Duyvis Wiener and an investment of more than US$30 million. There, they process the cocoa and produce top-grade artisan chocolate as well as cocoa liquor, butter, cake, powder and other by-products. This major investment not only intends to boost production and productivity but also attract younger generations to a field that has an aging workforce and has been traditionally dependent on weather conditions. “We want to attract young people to ensure a replacement generation, a younger population interested in applying to our own cocoa production the technological re sources that are being developed in the rest of the world”, states Mr. De la Rosa.
«Today we have made the country
a world leader in the high-quality
organic cocoa market»
Furthermore, Grupo Conacado places a strong importance in empowering their community, particularly by offering technical assistance to producers, supporting female and young people micro-enterprises and providing financial support for health, education and basic infrastructure projects. Like Mr. De la Rosa explains, “we have specific projects to increase the role of women and youth in cocoa production. We basically work with small producers, who account for about 84% of the cocoa sector but are practically below the poverty line. So, we have to do intensive social work in order to improve their living standards.” Despite of the progress and achievements listed above, Conacado still has to face important challenges. The implementation of new legislation and standards in the global cocoa sector is becoming more and more frequent and dynamic. The compliance with normative like “From Farm to table”, “Due Diligence in Human Rights” or “Free Deforestation Cocoa” represents significant challenges that not many farmer groups will be capable to fulfill in the short-medium term. Same goes to the new organic legislation EU848/2018 for farmers that has been recently implemented by the European Union and is also being adopted with not major changes by the USA Government. After 36 years of operations, Conacado has become a dynamic group of great impact in the socioeconomic life of the Dominican Republic: 8,700 members in 260 associations, 580 direct employees, and exports accounting for 25% of the Dominican Republic’s organic cocoa. “Today we have made the country a world leader in the high-quality organic cocoa market”, says proudly Mr. De la Rosa. Undoubtedly, their ecologically sustainable methods, advanced technology and community engagement will continue to make them trailblazers in their field.