Greetings from Guayaquil, Ecuador.
I left the UK on Saturday to meet Paul Sablich from our Peru office and Elisabeth Wilson, Shared Interest’s Business Development Manager. It was a pretty epic journey, taking me 22 hours in total but most definitely worth it.
So far we have been ultra busy. Over each of the past two days we have travelled 50 minutes or so to a nearby potential customer. The co-operative is interested in working with Shared Interest so Paul and Elisabeth have been going through the standard due diligence procedure. As this has all been in Spanish, I have had limited input but thanks to Elisabeth’s translations I have been kept up to speed with what’s going on. Plus there has been an abundance of chocolate tasting so I am certainly familiar with the final product!
In addition to the meetings we have travelled out to meet some of the co-operative members where we were shown round their land and told about the cocoa and how it grows. It was incredibly interesting and it was useful to be able to compare the farms with less technologically developed ones nearby.
Inevitably, visiting the farms meant more tasting. For those of you who have never seen a cocoa plant – I certainly hadn’t – the pod is cracked open to reveal the contained cocoa seeds which are coated in an edible sweet, sticky substance. We were able to try this in the field; it tasted amazing and was an experience to remember.
Of course, it would be impossible to talk about this trip without mentioning Maria Rosa, who has been invaluable to us.
Maria Rosa is actually the mother of our Account Manager for Latin America, Maria Hall. Maria Rosa has been fantastic; she picked us all up from the airport, took us sightseeing and even helped us change hotels. She has been great to have around and I am looking forward to seeing her again on Saturday once we return to Guayaquil.
Tonight we are having dinner with a coffee producer who will soon be FLO registered so Paul is keen to develop a relationship with them. Following that it’s off to bed as the ever keen Paul has booked us on a very early bus down to Machala which is about three hours south of where we are now. Once there we are going to meet up with a number of banana producers that we hope to be able to work with and diversify Shared Interest’s commodity range. I am really looking forward to travelling south and seeing some more of the country; that is if I don’t succumb to all my mosquito bites!
Hopefully I’ll be able to blog again from Machala to tell you all about banana production as it sounds fascinating. I’ll give you a taster: when Paul was telling me about the process he ended with “…and then you kill the mother.” Eeeek, see you on the other side!