Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wanna be remark rouses ire of small chocolate producers in Toledo, Belize.

By Ray Auxillou

Chocolate confectionary makers complain of disparaging remarks in an article on Chocolate and cacao production in Belize.
The unfortunate phrase was the use of WANNA BE producers. At the request of the AG Report editor-owner, we have deleted that phrase from the historical and statistical opinionated article. What we meant to say, but didn´t; is that in MY TOWN ( Santa Elena Town ) one of the TWIN TOWNS of Western Belize, was that in NONE of the grocery stores and supermarkets can any BELIZEAN buy a Belize manufactured chocolate candy product. We can and do buy SWISS and GERMAN and sometimes even CHINESE chocolates in our six local CHINESE and SALVADORANEAN SUPERMARKETS. The smaller grocery stores do not have the refrigeration, so that is understandable.
Chocolate candy supplies in our town of Santa Elena are small. They are always foreign imported products. You can buy imported liquid chocolate from Guatemala called CHOCO, in plastic bags. Local lady in my suburb of Hillview has been producing banana, coated chocolates on a popsicle for several years, for sale to school children. Sort of like in my youth, when kids bought IDEALS, which seem to have disappeared these days. You get a chocolate coated banana on a popsicle stick for .25 cents. Even the wood sticks are imported from Guatemala.
I have an agent in Saudi Arabia. Can Belize supply 12 containers of reefer cargo to supply the Persian Gulf on a quarterly basis with chocolates? Can a BELIZE BRAND NAME advertising the country, sell chocolates in the other industrialized countries of the world? The answer is yes! In fact, GOSS chocolates, a producer of confectionary chocolates informs me that they are trying very hard to supply every village and town in Belize with chocolate products made in Belize. Their location is in Seine Bight on the Placentia peninsular. The question came up in correspondence with GOSS chocolates, one of our local producers and I believe the largest developed one and they say the local production of cacao is too small to EXPORT chocolates as a VALUE ADDED PRODUCT. At least in the quantities ordered by container loads that would be normal in overseas business.
So we have a world market demand for chocolates a VALUE ADDED PRODUCT that is bigger than our ability to sell to and earn FOREIGN EXCHANGE. From this discussion, we learn there is room for expansion in value added chocolate products and foreign exports and there is room for more cacao trees to be planted as in foreign, or local investment. We can also import chocolate supplies from next door Guatemala. The ARAB countries have for thousands of years used CARDAMOM spice in their sweets. My idea was to produce and export to the ARABIAN countries CARDAMOM spiced chocolates. 500 tons a year of CARDAMOM spice is produced in the Guatemalan highlands. Introduced by German immigrants a 100 years ago. The world market for CARDAMOM products is unlimited, wide open for export products, whether chocolates, or tea bags. OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS for our young entrepreneurs.
As GOSS Chocolate explain, they are having problems with distribution within Belize. I understand that. Years ago, I tried distributing my books to tourist sites and nobody would pay cash. I had to leave them on consignment. There was no problem in book sales, there was a tourist demand. The problem for me, was, there was no organized distributor to use and collect my payments. I had to do it myself. Tourist retail outlets would make excuses and not pay, or delay payments, but I was traveling country wide, paying water taxis, buses, staying in hotels and couldn´t get my money for a book product that was selling, but I could not distribute properly, or collect my sales revenues properly. The expense of distribution and collection was higher than the revenues expected, so the venture collapsed, not for want of a market, but for want of a general distributor.
Locally in our town of Santa Elena, you have the same situation still. It seems like every juice producer, every manufacture of plantain chips, charcoal bags, coca cola, ideals, ice cream, are forced to have their own driver and delivery van, making daily or twice weekly rounds. This is ridiculous!
The country needs an entrepreneurial person to set up a warehouse and a truck and driver and start providing a general distribution system for small producers around the whole country. The problem with the -wanna be- chocolate product producers comment of mine, probably was not explained well enough by me and apparently in Toledo their inexperience makes them thin skinned to imagined slights. The real problem is; I cannot buy their products in my fairly large town of SANTA ELENA. Their problem is probably because they cannot distribute their products, or afford to do so individually.
In my view, this is what my opinionated articles on my BLOG are about. Creating dialogue and debate and finding solutions. For that I make no apologies. If we are going to grow our country, we must debate and compare experiences and thus find solutions and new investment opportunities for these masses of children graduating from higher tertiary education. We need jobs and we have both local and foreign markets available for Belize made products.
Anyway, I look to the day we can buy Belizean chocolate products in Santa Elena Town. At the moment my wife cleans out half the Chinese Supermarket of their chocolates and when she goes back for more, they are out of them. She has to wait for them to get another shipment from Germany, China, or someplace foreign.
I would like to express my thanks to GOSS chocolates for their proactive stance on chocolate making and local marketing. They are doing a good job in Belize down there in Seine Bight. They seem to have all the tourist sites and locations already in their distribution system. ( see a previous letter on this blog ) That is a feat of itself and to be admired. The thing to remember is; the world market is ready and waiting and is bigger than we can produce. Chocolates lend themselves to start ups, as we also have a local import substitution market. Where do we go from here for our entrepreneurs? That is the question I meant to ask?

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