Peter Cruz – Cocoa Farmers Making a Difference

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Rounding out this week’s look at the farmers behind the chocolate we eat, I’ve gone with Askinosie’s Peter Cruz who is working tirelessly in the Philippines to help farmers export their beans for chocolate again. Peter works with MARS as well as Askinosie passing on his knowledge. In September 2008, Askinosie started buying organically produced beans from the farmers of SUCCESS Alliance II Farmer Field School in Davao City. Without the help of Peter, this would not have been at all possible.

Online there isn’t much of the story behind Peter Cruz, although there are a few sites showing where he has spoken and a few newsletters and bits of information so I was extremely lucky to get an email from Shawn Askinosie himself about the history of Peter Cruz, Peter’s work with the local farmers and MARS and more. So in his own words, here’s the story of a farmer making a difference in the lives of thousands of farmers in the Philippines: Peter Cruz:

I met Peter on my first trip to the Philippines in 2008 and was introduced to him by a NGO called ACDI/Voca — ACDI is a USAID funded NGO that helps farmers around the world grow better crops, meet buyers and in general improve farmer standard of living. In the case of the Philippines I am not sure what we would do without them. Nobody in the world had exported cocoa beans from the Philippines since their land reform in the mid-80s as they lost the infrastructure to do that.

We wanted beans from there as it is historic – it’s the first place the Spanish brought cocoa to grow in Asia around 1600.  We were having trouble finding farmer groups we could work with directly and once I met Peter he introduced me to farmers and to the farmers we work with today.

Peter is a farmer and an agronomist and is contracted to run the Mars Research and Development Centre in Davao, Philippines (it is basically Peter and one other person in a small hut). His main job is helping independent small holder farmers by teaching them ways to fight disease and pests organically and improve yields. As a farmer and with the help of ACDI he has trained thousands of farmers around the country and brought about a revolution in organic cocoa farming in the Philippines. His work is funded by MARs.

Mars has poured a lot of money into training farmers all over the country in not only organic practices but giving them a crop to sell in order to improve their lives. I could not have purchased the beans without Peter Cruz.

Neither Mars nor Peter Cruz have ever made one single penny from Askinosie. It is their mission to help farmers. In fact, Peter has helped me help our farmer partners in Davao become licensed exporters and so ALL of the money goes to the farmers — zero middlemen. In almost all agri-exports around the world (coffee and others) exporters play an important role in getting the necessary legal documents and certifications creating real and important value. However, now in our case the farmers themselves fill this function. We are really proud of this accomplishment. So – they get a more than Fair Trade prices for the beans, they get a profit share from us at the end of our selling cycle [we open our books to them], and now they do not have the expense of hiring an exporter.  After 6 years of traveling to Davao – I am very close to Peter and his family.

So there you have it – an amazing farmer making an amazing difference in the Philippines. Without Peter and MARS there would be no cocoa being exported for chocolate and if there was, it is unlikely it would be of as high quality and thus high price. Fermented dried cocoa in the Philippines is worth 3 – 4 times the value of wet cocoa beans and the higher the taste quality, the higher the value. Top marks for MARS and Peter Cruz – thank you for bringing amazing cocoa beans to the market and helping *all* farmers make a difference!

A number of references were used including:

About Judith Lewis

Editor and chief blogger at Mostly About Chocolate. Expert SEO. judge at various chocolate awards, wine awards, and all the Search Awards. Judith is passionate about food, wine, and travel.

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