Interview with Joost en Gijs Lindeman from Almazonia

We are following the impact of  COVID-19 and the way different regions are reacting.
This month we interviewed Joost and his brother Gijs Lindeman. Within Almazonia they work with regions and families in the Brazilian Amazon and are preparing, selling and distributing wild cocoa. A 100% committed to the creation of a no harm economy, they are in business to prove you can cut a profitable deal without cutting down trees.

The state where they source from is Pará, in the North of Brazil: the 3 regions are Abaetetuba (where they have their fermentation/drying centre), Limoeiro and Gurupá.

We interviewed them 2 weeks ago, on the very last day that Gijs was in The Netherlands; the following day he would fly to Brazil. Gijs is normally stationed in the Brazilian Amazones and takes care of the sourcing part, whereas Joost does the European sales and distribution part.

Brazil and COVID-19

Brazil is pretty badly hit by the virus, and still not improving, according to Gijs. The region Pará, where we source our cocoa from is a pretty poor region. The healthcare system is very bad, not to say totally non-existent in these regions, and only 9% of the capital citizens have access to sewage.
Due to corona all transportation means were stopped, and consequently all business. However, poverty is forcing people to do their work and hence they take the risk of being infected.
Because there was no transportation, no harvesting of cacao happened at all during the first phase. In general the cocoa and chocolate sector decreased a lot. The virus directly impacted their sector: Bean to bar makers and larger producers faced a dropdown of 60-70 % of sales.

Missing the harvest

Luckily the brothers and all the staff in Brazil are safe at the moment. Gijs was stuck in the Netherlands. The native communities from whom they source couldn’t be reached as boat services also stopped. It’s a 30 hour boat trip to get there, so now it’s a huge logistical issue. They missed the harvest of May/June, and will most likely also miss the second harvest. Joost tells me this is quite challenging for them because they can’t fall back on any stock, like other companies. On Chocoa 2020 they launched their first batch of wild cocoa, harvest of summer 2019. They built a lot of interest there, but basically they can start all over now.
However, they have new samples available now. Experts in the field are testing this at the moment to give their verdict. Also, they have some other products (açai) that we are still able to sell.

Adapting to a new situation

The situation being as it is, they had to switch to survival mode. The brothers explain to me that they are currently looking at three new opportunities

  • To improve technology, acting more to protocols
  • To reinvest their profits in growing back the rainforest. They have acquired a piece of land to replant for example native fruit trees
  • Likely their focus will shift to larger producers and possible direct selling of chocolate to end consumers. A totally different market and approach, but they are investigating how this would work.

Future of cocoa

When I asked them about the future of cocoa and chocolate in Brazil they were convinced: positive! In the end everybody loves chocolate. This effects of the crisis will bounce back and it won’t be easy. But due to the crisis there is also more awareness to where our food comes from. Hopefully the bigger producers will in the future also put more emphasis on fine cacao, and step in to accelerate the fine cocoa market.

They are representing samples now, and want to reconnect with the craft chocolate makers. They do hope and believe that the quality we are able to supply, can help to craft makers to have something unique.

Want to request a sample or find out more about Almazonia? Check almazonia.com [ https://almazonia.com/pages/wild-cocoa] or contact them at hello[@]almazonia.com

Interview: Anne-Marie Roorda (Equipoise) with Joost en Gijs Lindeman (Almazonia)