Congolese cocoa on the upswing

Over the last five years, ELAN has worked alongside a number of individual exporters and private sector-led industry associations to demonstrate that Congo is a destination for cocoa buyers and processors. Continued technical work and investments have helped streamline operations, improved quality and volume and developed the sector’s capacity to meet existing and forecast demand.

 Investments and activities led by ESCO, DRC’s largest cocoa exporter, along with well-known brands including Theo Chocolate, laid the groundwork for the industry’s resurgence over the last 17 years. The progress, rooted in fundamentals, saw exports surge from roughly 600 tons in 2000 to over 11,000 during the 2015/2016 season. During this period, the number of smallholder farmers receiving training on good agricultural practices (GAP), improved planting materials, and with access to value-adding production and treatment tools, equipment and facilities, dramatically increased.

 Building on progress to date, ELAN teamed with cocoa partners including COPAK (Compagnie des Produits Agricoles des Kivus), SCAK (Socièté de Commerce et d'Agriculture du Kivu), and Muvunga to deliver interventions targeting capacity building, certification, production and processing methods, centralized post-harvest activities, and constructive exporter-producer relationships. These developments and general market maturation led to investments which in turn improved crop quality and volume. A range of quality assurance measures now embedded into the processes further bolstered buyer confidence in Congo as a sourcing destination. New buyers including Barry Callebaut, ICAM, Tachibana, Theo Chocolate, Tropicore, Lush Cosmetics, Walter Matter, and more have responded in kind. The renewed interest in Congolese cocoa paved the way for domestic processing. Value addition at the origin allows Congo to realize new employment opportunities along the value chain, and better support Congo’s story of progress and prospects.

 Cocoa Congo took the next leap in trying to realize DRC’s first-ever single origin bean to bar processing operation. Now several months into operations, Cocoa Congo has leveraged social investment to humanize the cocoa value chain, promote women-driven value addition, and contribute to lasting community empowerment—all while producing fine chocolate.

 The Chambers Federation and Fair Congo, which responsibly source artisanal gold in the region, applied what they learned to Cocoa Congo and the cocoa sector, ensuring farmers and communities reap the benefits. Valuing the quality and profile of beans sourced from North Kivu, the Chambers Federation and Fair Congo sought to move even closer to the source—aligning activities with a truer form of bean-to-bar lines of confectionery ingredients and premium single origin chocolate products.

 In just a few months Cocoa Congo began sourcing certified Congolese cocoa (produced by women), processing premium quality consumer chocolate products and confectionery ingredients (prepared by women), and designing packaging with local artisans (in partnership with Kivu Nuru, a Congolese-based, woman-owned and operated social enterprise). As production continues to scale, chocolate lovers will soon be able to enjoy a wide range of products being packed and prepared for local and international markets.

 Since establishing operations, the Goma-based social enterprise has successfully fulfilled purchases and shipped nearly 500kgs of confectionery ingredients (cocoa butter, powder, liqueur) to clients within Africa’s Great Lakes region, Europe and North America. In addition, restaurants, cafes, and bakeries are testing product samples (nibs, coating, etc.) as compliments or inclusions on menus.

Starting the bean-to-bar process.

Starting the bean-to-bar process.

 Realizing the value of industry associations, Cocoa Congo joined the Association des Exportateurs du Cacao Café de la RD Congo (ASSECCAF) and Femmes Congolaises dans le Café & Cacao (IFCCA) to support the industry-wide vision of a more inclusive and competitive cocoa value chain in DRC.

Working with local artists to design packaging.

Working with local artists to design packaging.

 Cocoa Congo joins a unique group engaged in sourcing, processing, packaging, and making cocoa and coffee products available, including Cafe Carioca, Café Kivu, and Le Petit Chalet. Cocoa Congo strives to prove that confectionery ingredient buyers, chocolate bar consumers, and others with interests in a range of products (i.e. nibs, coatings, etc.) are able to satisfy their needs domestically and internationally.

The finished product.

The finished product.

 To support improvements in availability, access and quality of key market information, ÉLAN RDC looks forward to publishing findings from the recently concluded Domestic Processing and Consumption Analysis that was developed and conducted with Congo Initiative (CI), the Texas A&M University Center on Conflict and Development, and Beni-based Unversité Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC). The comprehensive analysis explores multiple segments of the domestic cocoa and coffee processing and consumption markets throughout seven major population centers.

 Developed alongside industry stakeholders, the findings will put forward actionable insights from which existing processors and those interested in directing investments can act and make more informed decisions about targeting specific market segments.

 Available to local, national, and international buyers, as well as public and private-sector actors, this market data can drive domestic processing capacity, and promote increased availability of finished coffee and cocoa products for populations throughout DRC.

 To learn more about Cocoa Congo, you can visit Fair Congo online, the overarching entity overseeing Cocoa Congo and the many other activities and initiatives driven by the Chambers Federations. In addition, you can check them out in recent press coverage from Deutsche Welle, Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund.