Coco is Ours
Publication Date: 02/26/2021 12:00
"Eu só quero chocolate [Chocolate is all I want]"! That is the chorus of a famous song by the Brazilian composer Tim Maia, which summarizes in a few words a passion cultivated – and savored – by millions of people. Be it bitter, milky, white, hot or cold, it’s on everyone's plate. The recipes may vary, but they are based on the same ingredient: cocoa. If chocolate is a sacred product for many people, cocoa, according to historians, was of divine origin for its first cultivators, the Mayas and Aztecs, who inhabited the regions of Mexico, Central America and the Amazon Basin, long before Europeans landed here. In a quick journey through time, the planting of cocoa began in Brazil in the south of Bahia, in the 18th century. Attempts were also made in Pará during this period, but without much success. Since then, that has all changed. Nowadays, the state is the largest Brazilian producer, even surpassing Bahia. Cocoa cultivation started and was developed in the Middle Xingu over the recent decades, bordering the Transamazônica highway.
With technical support, regional producers have a powerful, high-performance and efficient seed at hand. According to the Executive Commission for Cocoa Cultivation Planning (Ceplac), under the Ministry of Agriculture, the plantations spread over 175,000 hectares in Pará. As productivity is now the soul of the business, 900 kilograms of fruit are locally harvested per hectare. For comparison purposes, Bahia, which until 2016 was the largest Brazilian producer, with its 480,000 hectares of planted area, produces 300 kilograms per hectare.
In Pará, the cocoa crop is developed in small and medium farms in the municipalities of Altamira, Medicilândia, Vitória do Xingu, Pacajá, Anapu, Senador José Porfírio, Brasil Novo and Uruará, representing over 90% of the state's production, according to Ceplac. Such performance earned the region the title of Transamazônica's Cocoa Route. Medicilândia is the largest local producer, followed by Uruará and Altamira.
Benefited by the Alternative Cocoa Project, an initiative by Norte Energia, farmer Josué Costa, 31, explains that the stems multiplied on his property in Vitória do Xingu after he started following the guidelines provided by the program's technicians. Resident of a Resettlement in Remaining Areas (RAR), near Tranzamazônica's KM 27, he produces 1,500 kg of cocoa in the harvest period (June and July) and 600 kg in the off-season (August to May) and sells it all to buyers in Altamira and the region.
“I learned pruning and fertilization techniques and I intend to specialize even more in farming, to generate more income and provide a more comfortable life for my family,” Josué adds. Before his resettlement to the RAR, during the construction of the Belo Monte Hydroelectric Plant, the farmer lived in the Palhal Community, on the Asurini Island, in the western region of Pará.
According to Ceplac, more than half of the 24,009 cocoa producers in Pará (precisely 12,854 producers) are settled in the Xingu region. "One of the entity's actions is to produce genetically improved seeds that are distributed to farmers. Seven million of them have already been distributed in the Xingu region," says Paulo Henrique Santos, head of the institution's Regional Department. He explains that the Ceplac laboratory in Medicilândia has been developing this technology since 1957. Farmers living the resettlement areas and residents of permanent preservation areas outlined by Norte Energia, in compliance with the Belo Monte HPP Basic Environmental Project, receive the seeds free of charge. “It is a seed modified from matrices that bring together 12 high quality materials, which improves performance compared to the common types. With this technique, we reach most of the plantations in the region, giving Pará's crops greater productivity with a resistant and high-quality fruit", Santos explains.