Strategies to Strengthen Ecuador's High-Value Cacao Value Chain
Since the early nineteenth century, cacao has been an important export earner for Ecuador. Today the importance of this sector remains, as Ecuador is the main producer and exporter of Fine and Flavor cacao worldwide. Motivated by the main transformations of the global food systems and the increasing demand for multidimensional credence attributes, this study examines the present state of Ecuador's cacao industry, identifies areas of opportunity, and discusses how the private and public sectors can work together to meet existing and emerging challenges. Findings are supported by interviews conducted with the principal actors in the Ecuadorian cacao industry and two case studies. The first case study focuses on how associativity can help cacao farmers producing high-quality beans to differentiate themselves and succeed in modern agri-food markets. The second case study explores the success of a local chocolate firm and its links with local cacao farmers. Findings suggest that market trends have created new business opportunities for cacao producers and chocolate processors. These opportunities are most open to firms who can personalize and differentiate their products, for example, through the use of quality certifications such as organic, fair trade, reduced carbon load, etc. More importantly, market developments are driving exporters to enhance the performance of cacao value chains in the country, but the sector requires coordination to capture reputation and credence-based demands for the local cacao.