Why the only chocolate São Tomé makes is organic


The tiny archipelago of São Tomé was once the world’s biggest exporter of cocoa, but now it focuses on quality over quantity because it can no longer compete with larger nations. “We decided to produce organic cocoa only,” President Carlos Vila Nova tells the BBC, explaining that buyers have to place their orders years in advance. “In my opinion, that’s the way [forward] for agriculture. We have to focus on gourmet, because we don’t have the quantity.” Cocoa production on the twin islands of São Tomé and Príncipe is a legacy rooted in slavery and colonialism.

The Portuguese forced slaves to work the previously uninhabited land from the 15th Century onwards, then in the 19th and 20th Centuries, plantations began producing coffee and cocoa that was farmed by the slaves and later by forced, exploited islanders.

Cadburys, Rowntrees, Fry’s and other chocolate manufacturers bought their beans from São Tomé until an exposé of horrific, slave-like working conditions appeared in US magazine Harper’s. By the 1920s, companies had switched their source of beans to Ghana and Ivory Coast – ending São Tomé’s ignominious title as the biggest cocoa exporter in the world. Now there is a growing focus on tree-to-bar chocolate, something that the big manufacturers have always said is too costly and difficult to do in West Africa.

“By keeping it in the country we not only add value to the product by transforming it into chocolate, but we also create jobs,” says agronomist Fegegta Tadele Yidmekatchew who works for a French company called the Kennyson group, which has owned the Roça de Diogo Vaz plantation in north-western of São Tomé for several decades. “I think if that’s not done [by other companies] it’s mostly because people aren’t willing to make the investment or pay a little bit more for the chocolate or cocoa.”


Posted by on Apr 28 2022. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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