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    Chulalongkorn University’s School of Agricultural Resources pilots fresh cacao processing methods

    At present, Thailand’s cocoa market is on the rise and there is a substantial need for cacao beans in the country. However, there are problems in the sale of dried cacao beans produced by local farmers as the beans are below the standards of the market. This forces most entrepreneurs and factories to import dried cacao beans from overseas.

    Faculty and researchers from Chulalongkorn University’s School of Agricultural Resources have recently conducted a Development Project of Midstream Business in Cocoa Business Ecosystem in Nan Province, with the aim to increase the potential of local entrepreneurs by equipping them with knowledge about cacao processing to meet the standards required by the market and to improve the overall standards of dried cacao bean production. This research project provides an important opportunity to boost the dried cacao bean business in Nan, which will increase the competitiveness of local entrepreneurs. The goal is for at least two local entrepreneurs in Nan to produce cacao beans that meet the requirements of the buyers. The project also aims to make Nan a pilot area for developing a model for cacao processing, where knowledge is imparted to and exchanged among other local entrepreneurs in the province, as well as increase the potential of local entrepreneurs in finance, marketing, and product development.

    Currently, the project is in the phase of creating knowledge on preliminary cacao bean processing for the context of the intended local entrepreneurs and sharing such knowledge to improve the dried cacao bean quality of scent, taste, and safety, as well as connecting the producers to the buyers. The buyers are private organizations that give suggestions on the techniques of processing and the assessment of the quality of cacao beans.

    Assist. Prof. Dr. Pimpinan Somsong from the School of Agricultural Resources, Chulalongkorn University, talked about the origin of the project explaining that although Thailand has been growing cacao for a long time, it is still being done in limited areas. Moreover, most farmers do not know how to properly manage cacao, including the market. Therefore, a research plan has been devised to elevate the cocoa supply chain in Nan, which includes sub-projects on market and business development, management of coca plantations, and midstream business development, involving the inclusion of farmers in the development of preliminary processing, e.g., fermentation and drying of cacao beans.

    “More entrepreneurs are now involved in the downstream business of turning dried cacao beans into chocolate, but not many in the midstream business or the preliminary processing of fresh cacao into dried cacao beans. As for the upstream business or cocoa farmers, there are quite a large number,” explained Assist. Prof. Dr. Pimpinan.

    By informing local farmers in Nan about cocoa processing, Thailand’s cocoa market will increase its supply of dried cocoa. The School of Agricultural Resources, Chulalongkorn University, has both faculty members and students in Nan, allowing them to make on-site visits to share the techniques of processing cacao with local farmers. Processing not only makes it easier to store cocoa, but also allows it to be made into other products, such as chocolate.

    According to Assist. Prof. Dr. Pimpinan, “This research project is an integration between researchers, the community, and entrepreneurs to apply knowledge gained from research and innovation to the problems of local entrepreneurs. This will result in the development of the agricultural sector and better distribution of income.”

    The School of Agricultural Resources, Chulalongkorn University, has organized a workshop on creating craft chocolate or making chocolate from cacao beans to both Thai and foreign interested individuals. The goal is to increase knowledge as well as to promote the production and export of cocoa. The private sector, which is the buyer of dried cocoa and a knowledgeable party of the needs of the market, serves as a significant mechanism to improve cocoa, both in terms of quantity and quality. Regarding future research plans, Assist. Prof. Dr. Pimpinan added that it is necessary to regulate the quality of cocoa fermentation and drying in each batch to build confidence in the buyers, as well as the evaluation of quality of fresh cacao beans and dried cacao beans. In the future, the research will then be expanded to other provinces besides Nan.

    For the full release and more images, please visit: https://www.chula.ac.th/en/news/109701/