The Australia and New Zealand funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus or PHAMA Plus Program has signed a partnership agreement with Vanuatu cocoa processor and exporter Gaston Chocolat to improve pre- and post-harvest handling of cocoa, boosting quality supply to export markets.
Through the partnership, PHAMA Plus will work with the local company and their dried bean suppliers on Malekula, Santo and Epi to achieve HACCP (food safety) and B-Corporation certification, a third-party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards. Both certifications will increase overseas demand for high quality Vanuatu cocoa and drive additional revenue for growers.
According to a statement, close to 300 farmers who currently supply cocoa to Gaston Chocolat will benefit through improved prices for their dried cocoa beans, training in farm management and post-harvest practices like fermentation and drying.
Gaston Chocolat Director Olivier Fernandez said the collaboration would improve exports and benefit farmers.
“Our partnership with PHAMA Plus will broadly improve our suppliers’ pre- and post-harvest handling of cacao, leading to a quality supply and better end product and prices,” Fernandez said.
“It will also enable us to get additional certifications and unlock access to markets such as cruise ship companies and overseas distributors.
“It is also expected to have a positive impact on the perception of the finished product by the consumers who will make informed choices in supporting fair, ethical and environmentally friendly products through the B-Corp certification.’’
Fernandez said a core part of the partnership was to empower women, with the allocation of 15% of the budget to actions that empower women cocoa growers.
“At the very foundation of Gaston Chocolat is a commitment to employing a minimum of 60 percent of women at equal salaries to men,” he added.
In welcoming the partnership, PHAMA Plus Senior National Facilitator, Dr Rebecca Bogiri said: “We’re pleased to be collaborating with Gaston Chocolat to continue developing the Vanuatu cocoa sector.
Bogiri said the partnership with Gaston Chocolat built on the work the PHAMA program (2011-2018) had done prior to PHAMA Plus, with the aim to increase the quality and value of Vanuatu cocoa exports.
“The agreement marks the beginning of mutually beneficial partnership for the cocoa supply and distribution ecosystem developed by a young, innovative company,” Bogiri added.
This partnership builds on the work PHAMA has done prior to PHAMA Plus, with the aim to increase the export of cocoa produce from Vanuatu that meets consistency and quality specifications of importing countries. This is with a broader aim of improving household incomes, making export markets work better and more inclusive.
Photo file source PHAMA Plus