Today I had a lesson in Ecuador’s black gold…Not the black gold which is partly responsible for the country’s current economic challenges, but a black gold which is rather more to my taste… chocolate.

Unfortunately the arid, chilly climate around Quito is not suitable for chocolate growing. However down in the costal areas and up in the forests the conditions are better… In fact, the conditions are so good that Ecuador is renowned for its high quality chocolate. Many famous Western brands insist on having a certain percentage of the flavourful Ecuadorean beans mixed with cheaper, lower quality beans from elsewhere.

As the health benefits of chocolate are increasingly publicised and demand for chocolate grows in emerging economies, notably China, there is concern that demand could exceed supply, particularly given the long growing season for cocoa beans. The trends towards more discerning chocolate connoisseurs are also supporting the Ecuadorean cocoa market.

Ecuadorean farmers are understandably interested in the opportunities that this market presents. However there are also people looking to move up the value chain. Instead of exporting beans, local brands are looking to capitalise on a more discerning clientele looking for single origin chocolate. Others are looking to capitalise on tourist interest in the chocolate industry.

This new black gold might not bring as much wealth to Ecuador as oil has done in recent decades, however the developments in the market present opportunities for local business.

Apricot Wilson