Jamaican Cocoa Farmers Sell to World’s Best Chocolatiers
Desmond Jadusingh, a cocoa farmer in Saint Thomas, Jamaica, has faced his fair share of challenges, like the frequent hurricanes that devastate his crop.
As the owner of Bachelor’s Hall Estate, Desmond knew he needed to make up for the high costs of recovering after a storm. Through his own research, Desmond discovered that if he increased the quantity of fine and flavored cocoa he produced, he could attract international buyers.
To enter the global market, Desmond decided to undertake his own post-harvest processing to keep production costs low. This meant added risk, since post-harvest fermenting and drying plays a critical role in the quality and flavor of beans. It also meant major shakeups for the industry, as Jamaica’s Cocoa Industry Board (CIB) had overseen all post-harvest processing of cocoa beans through state-owned fermentaries since 1954.
To help cocoa farmers like Desmond get a premium price for their beans, the USAID-funded, ACDI/VOCA-implemented Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate change (Ja REEACH II) project teamed up with the Jamaica Cocoa Farmers’ Association (JCFA) to introduce a model of farmer-led post-harvest processing that meets national and international standards.
More than 50 participants, including Desmond, received 40 hours of training, led by Rosa Perez, a cocoa post-harvest specialist from Ecuador, in harvesting, fermenting, drying, storing, roasting, and even producing liquor from cocoa.
With technical support from Ja REEACH II, Desmond and other cocoa farmers in the Johnson Mountain Producers’ Marketing Organization also received a commercial-sized solar cocoa bean dryer.
Their first attempt at drying was not only a success, but also an immense achievement, as it demonstrated to the Jamaican government that farmers could manage the post-harvest processing themselves.
Desmond’s farm is now the largest cocoa farm in Jamaica, producing cocoa beans for some of the world’s best chocolate; and the awards prove it. Bachelor’s Hall won its first international award in 2015, receiving silver in the world ranking at the International Chocolate Awards. In 2016, dark chocolate bars made from Bachelor’s Hall beans won bronze in the American ranking and silver in the world ranking.
Desmond called the experience:
“Rewarding, to know that all that hard work is appreciated on an international level.”
Because the beans are made into single-origin chocolate bars, they are more traceable, which ensures greater recognition for Desmond. He attributes the beans’ sought-after flavor to their genetic makeup and delicate post-harvest processing. He also claims they grow from “the richest soil in the Plantain Garden Valley.”
“Anything you plant will grow. It is a disservice to the soil, which is so productive, to add chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” –Desmond
Now, Desmond exports his beans to high-end, international chocolatiers, like SOMA in Canada, Rogue in the United States, and Valrhona in France for their best-selling Morant Bay chocolate.
Cocoa farmers like Desmond have helped secure Jamaica’s status as one of the top producers of fine and flavored cocoa in the world, even inspiring a renewed interest among Jamaica’s cocoa farmers.
With his new world-class status, Desmond is eager to grow. He hopes to one day make his own chocolate bar on the farm.