Continuation of the article
R.: What volumes are being produced from your chocolate facility and your Cameroon and Madagascar plantations?
E.M.: Our Cameroon plantation covers 14 hectares and produces 10 tonnes a year. Sigōji uses 6 tonnes and the remainder is sold to our partners. The Madagascar plantation covers several hectares and I have only visited 30 of these. Although we don’t own this property, I am very interested in the old established plants growing there. We use ½ tonne of chocolate from the Madagascan plantation.
R.: How does the Cameroon plantation support the local economy in Cameroon?
E.M.: Primarily through local job creation, first within the family and then with local community jobs.
R.: What do you see as the major challenges and issues facing the industry in Cameroon and Africa?
E.M.: The Cocoa is a tightly controlled industry in Cameroon and more widely across Africa. In Latin America, one can deal directly with cocoa-farmers, buying and transporting small quantities of cocoa beans. As a result of direct purchasing, we can support plantation owners in improving production. In Cameroon, however, there are too many intermediaries, and in particular ‘facilitators’ (‘coxeurs’, ‘cassiers’), who work on behalf of the larger industry actors and purchase poorer quality cocoa. This then lowers local production quality levels to Grade 2, whereas they have the potential to achieve Grade 1. Some countries such as Togo for example are trying to change this. Direct business costs are also high. Currently in Cameroon, you need at least €18,000 (approx. $20,400) to obtain an export license on top of which are other exorbitant contribution costs, in particular to the GEX (Groupement des exportateurs cacao/cafés, Coffee and Cocoa Export Group), and which is just the straw that breaks the camel’s back!
« Cocoa is a tightly controlled industry in Cameroon and more widely across Africa »Euphrasie Mbamba
R.: What are your plans for Sigōji?
E.M.: I have always said that if I do not support my own continent’s cocoa sector, then I don’t deserve to be in this profession. My goal is to sell chocolate and bring my expertise to African cocoa-growers, showing them how to grow, ferment and dry cocoa in order to make Africa not just a leading cocoa producer but also a Grade 1 cocoa producer. As such cocoa-growers will enjoy better prices and be able to afford their children’s education and health care. My grandfather was a cocoa farmer and my uncle exported cocoa. They both had large families and yet they couldn’t afford to pay their families’ education costs, and that is a shame.