Auro to expand support to cacao farmers, diversify sources

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star
Auro to expand support to cacao farmers, diversify sources

MANILA, Philippines — Premium tree-to-bar chocolate maker Auro Chocolate plans to expand its support to cacao farmers to help them cope with the ill effects of the climate crisis and the global cocoa shortage.

Auro co-founder and managing director Kelly Go said the current global cacao shortage that sent cacao prices skyrocketing has forced the chocolatier to improve its farmer support.

Auro provides support in the form of premium prices, training and quality nursery materials, among others.

The company also shoulders all the costs of some of its partner-farmers. The firm does this to maintain and expand the cacao genetics in a given planting area to sustain the high quality raw materials that it has been known for.

“We have to be more creative in the ways that we work with the farmers and the communities on the ground to be able to maintain the quality that the Philippines and Auro has been known for,” Go told The STAR.

Go noted that the firm is “reshaping” some of its financial incentives following the recent spikes in cacao prices caused by the global cocoa shortage.

The reshaping would be in the form of providing more direct production support like planting inputs such as fertilizer and plastic sleeves.

The improvements in the production support is also the firm’s response to the detrimental impact of extreme weather patterns like El Niño on cacao production.

“What is missing right now is even if our price is so high, the productivity is not increasing. It is in many ways declining,” she said.

“We feel like we need to make a more active effort to ensure that we are also tackling the supply side issues (of cacao),” she added.

Auro buys directly from farmers and local consolidators for all its cacao bean needs. The firm has an annual cacao requirement of about 300 to 400 metric tons.

The chocolate firm is now buying fermented beans as much as P390 per kilogram from P230 per kilogram last year. It buys wet cacao beans at P100 per kilogram versus a year ago’s P45 going rate.

“Right now, it is extremely challenging because not only are the prices really high but the supply of cacao is also very low,” Go said, citing stiffer market competition as a result of the global cacao shortage.

Industry players have noted that foreign buyers have been looking for alternative supplies, which include the Philippines, to fill in the gap created by West African stocks in the world market.

Auro also plans to expand and diversify its supply base in the country. At present, it buys majority of its cacao needs from Davao, which accounts for 80 percent of the country’s annual output.

The firm is eyeing to source cacao from other areas such as Bataan, Bukidnon, Leyte and Batangas.

“We need to diversify our supply sources as well. In Davao, whether we like it or not everybody is there,” Go said.

“We just want to make sure we are also benefiting other communities,” Go added.

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