Inside Choco coops’ bittersweet response to pandemic
As the world celebrated Chocolate Day last July 7, the industry itself, like other consumer products was battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, because of restrictions on the supply chain after most of the countries resorted to lockdowns.
In the Philippines, local producers were forced to stop or limit processing of cacao products after the declaration of enhanced community quarantine or ECQ. Rehoboth Agriculture Cooperative (RACO) who engages in cacao trading and chocolate processing in the Davao region, operated in limited capacity.
“Tumigil ang production namin ng tablea at dark chocolates ‘nung nagstart ang ECQ. Mabuti na lang at napagpatuloy namin ang pag-process ng chocolate candies,” Lolita Pinoon, general manager of RACO said.
Another cooperative, Fardeco Agricultural Multipurpose Cooperative, situated in Davao City, also stopped operations for two months during ECQ.
“Nag-operate din kami paunti-unti para masustain ang sweldo ng aming mga workers,” Fardeco Chairman Nelson Tagud said.
With many buyers halting their businesses because of travel restrictions, the products of both cooperatives were not spared.
“Dahil natigil ang exportation ang aming buyers sa cacao nibs natigil din sila bumili sa amin. Naapektuhan din ang mga farmers because we stopped buying beans from them,” Pinoon said. Tagud also added that Fardeco’s tablea production was put to a stop.
To expand their market, both Fardeco and Rehoboth began promoting their products online to address constraints.
Their official Facebook pages have added information on how to avail their products, including where to pick up and what delivery methods their customers can use.
“Aside from delivery sa mga customers namin, we put up posts din online para malaman ng mga interesado kung paano sila makaka-avail ng products namin, Tagud said.
In their efforts to help their members, both cooperatives also distributed to their members to alleviate the impact of the pandemic to their everyday lives.
With the help of Peace and Equity Foundation, Fardeco was able to distribute food and hygiene packs to its 100 workers and farmer household members during the early phase of the ECQ.
Check out Rehoboth and Fardeco’s pages at https://www.facebook.com/RehobothAgriCoop/ and https://www.facebook.com/FardecoAGRIMpcooperativefermentedcacaobeanstablea/ to avail their chocolate products.