Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Meiji Holdings Co. will provide farmers in southern Mexico with saplings of rare white cacao, which is grown in the region and used to make high-end chocolate, officials have said.
The holding company for the confectionery and dairy product group hopes to support farmers who grow white cacao, whose beans fetch higher prices than normal brown cacao beans, to promote the variety as a local specialty for regional development.
The company also aims for business expansion through the project.
The white cacao, whose fruit contains the characteristic white beans, is vulnerable to disease and changes in weather conditions. White cacao beans make up just 0.002 percent of the total cacao production in the world.
As part of the group’s Meiji Cocoa Support program to support cacao farmers worldwide, Meiji Holdings opened a 100-hectare plantation in Tapachula in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas in 2016. With local cooperation, Meiji Holdings started mass production of white cacao beans on the farm.
Meiji Holdings released a limited-edition chocolate using white cacao beans in Japan for St. Valentine’s Day season last year, during which demand for chocolate as gifts soars in the country. This year, the company has introduced two chocolate products made from the rare beans for a limited period.
The area around Tapachula is said to be the birthplace of cacao farming. But local productivity is low, with little attention paid to quality.
Against the backdrop, Meiji Holdings has decided to provide farmers near the company’s plantation with 10,000 white cacao saplings.
The firm also decided to pay for equipment used in the fermentation, drying and selecting processes.
“The region has been left behind even though it is a place where a civilization thrived on cacao beans,” Hiroyuki Utsunomiya, a cacao specialist in the group’s research and development division, said.
“We hope that white cacao will help revitalize the region,” he added.