Small-holders perception of sustainability and chain coordination: evidence from Arriba PDO Cocoa in Western Ecuador

Carlos Moreno-Miranda, Wageningen University & Research

Hipatia Palacios, Technical University of Ambato

Daniele Rama, University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) is a historically strategic agricultural sector in Latin America and constitutes an important crop worldwide for processed and raw material markets (Krauss, 2018) which fail to mention one of the actual key drivers: the need to shore up production in the long term in an embattled sector. Consequently, representations also down-play the need for systemic change, reproducing the power asymmetries they claim to change.

The research seeks to establish to what degree public-facing communication differs from underlying priorities in terms of forefronting altruism over necessity, and whether this is problematic for the initiatives’ overall outcome. Through semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions, documentary analysis and participant observation in Latin America and Europe, it reviews relations in two cocoa sustainability initiatives with environmental foci.

Crucially, the research establishes a link between representations, underlying priorities and the degree to which they (re. The FAO’s latest estimates point out that the world’s production of cocoa is more than 4,600,000 tons per year (1,200,000 ha) (Alemagi et al., 2015; FAO, 2018). Ecuador, with an output of 270,000 tons/year, placed ninth in the world ranking producing countries (Saravia-Matus et al., 2020; Williams, 2019). In recent years, the Ecuadorian cocoa chain faced problems such as price fluctuation and low production yield (on average 304 kg/ha) in contrast with direct competitors (e.g., Perú — 634 kg/ha, Colombia- 450 kg/ha) (Kozicka et al., 2018). Besides, its PDO Cocoa is marketed without adequate mechanisms leading to low market performance (Pino et al., 2018).

The low coordination and commercialization strategies and biased public policies are unable to differentiate variety-based markets (Marette, 2016; UNDP, 2020). Therefore, specific instruments promoting sustainable chains are vital.Nevertheless, the Ecuadorian Government, led a process of Cocoa revaluation, through the project “Production and Improvement of the Quality of National Cocoa” (MAG, 2015). The purpose was to improve yields of CCN-51 cloned variety and target national and international markets of PDO cocoa (MAG, 2018). The Ecuadorian PDO cocoa is known as “Cacao Arriba” and characterized by a deep floral-fruity aroma (Benitez, 2018). In 2007, Ecuador submitted the designation of origin (DO) application for Cocoa Arriba, and it was approved in 2013 (IEPI, 2019). Today, Ecuador has the most significant world market share of Cocoa Arriba (63%) (Pino et al., 2018).

PDO Arriba production is a clear alternative to promote sustainability and rural development. Various authors argue that studies have only addressed agronomic aspects (Tuesta et al., 2017). An integrative perspective includes a se-ries of variables such as standards application, economic evaluation, and social implications, which underline existing shortcomings (Corsi & Salvioni, 2017). For such reasons, it employs a Principal Components Analysis to reduce a large set by emphasizing variation and bring out strong patterns of social and economic sustainability between Arriba PDO and CCN-51 cocoa chains.In such a context, the present article aims to contribute by addressing two research questions.

The first RQ is how the Cocoa Arriba PDO chain is different from the CCN-51 cocoa chain in terms of socio-economic performance? The last RQ is what kind of governance mechanism does the Cocoa Arriba PDO chain describe, and what sets it apart from the CCN-51 cocoa chain? As such, the study hopes to further our understanding of the socio-economic sustain-ability assessment and the relevant insight regarding the cocoa PDO chain. It focused on Los Ríos province since it covers most of the Cocoa Arriba production in Ecuador.


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