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A New Generation of Smallholder Cacao Farmers Re-thinks Sustainability in Chantaburi

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Supanprohm Farm: Growing Sustainably

Alongside cacao, sustainable agriculture is also gaining momentum in Thailand. As more farmers embrace the movement, some people are shifting lifestyles to grow cacao and other crops.

One example is Supansa Boonprasert (Pueng). In 2017, she left her job as a safety engineer for Michelin in the southern city of Hat Yai to start Supanprohm Farm , a sustainable farm with her husband Prohmmathanakorn (Prohm) in Chanthaburi. 

They plan to turn it into a eco-friendly homestay within the next months.

Their fifteen rai farm had been rubber monoculture for 15 years. But the once lucrative crop has crashed from a high of 200 THB/kg to a paltry 25 THB/kg.

So Pueng and Prohm planted 1,000 cacao trees that are scattered around their property. They added companion crops, including vanilla, betel nut, valuable tree for wood.

Best of all, they no longer rely on a single chemical-heavy crop. And everything generates income.

For example, betel trees provide nuts for candies, color compounds and medical industries and their leaves for organic packaging, most of which is exported to China.

Pueng has what she calls a “mini-zoo” with over 50 animals. They plan to produce natural fertilizer to spread around the plants, to increase yields without using chemicals. She says homestay guests will surely enjoy learning about the animals and sustainable farming methods.

Promoting sustainable agriculture is a priority for Pueng. They are digging a 1200m³ water pond with barriers to prevent contamination and comply with Thai organic certification regulations. She has plans to grow blackberries, mulberries, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, organic vegetables and sugar cane in the future. They hope this will attract more foreign eco-tourists. But improving cacao quality and increasing output is their focus.

Suriya Farm: Thailand Best Cacao Farmer 2023

In nearby Mueang Klung village, Suriya Chaisutti and his wife Boom are among the first of a new generation of small holder cacao farmers in the Chanthaburi region. They have planted 300 cacao trees on ten rai since 2011, producing five to ten kg/tree monthly and harvesting as often as every two weeks year-round. Suriya says he tested several cacao species, settling on the Chumphon #1. He

says the other varieties produced small or tasteless beans. They set up a fermentation area at home with fermentation boxes and rent a greenhouse from the government to dry the beans. Their next play is to learn grafting techniques and improve their output.

During the visit, Linda asked how they stopped the squirrels from eating the cacao pods. Boom said they tried several solutions. But the most effective method is also the simplest: scarecrows wearing smelly shirts as the human hormones seem to keep the pesky thieves away.

Suriya Farm concentrates on growing premium-grade chemical-free cacao. It also grows durian and mangosteen. And while they still use some chemicals for durian and mangosteen, Suriya is reducing the amount used over time.

An unusually dry growing season hurt production this year, and the farmers favors

irrigation to durian plantations. But not all was lost, and they have high hopes for the cacao harvest in October and November. Suriya and Boom would love to expand the farm and plant more cacao to meet rising demand, but buying or renting land nearby is challenging and costly.

In July 2023, they were awarded "Best Cacao Farmer 2023" by the Thailand Craft Chocolate Festival (TCCF)

Exporting Thai Cacao :

Supanprohm Farm and Suriya Farm work with THAI INTERCO CACAO CO. LTD (TICC)and THAI CACAO DISTRIBUTION CO. LTD (TCD). TICC exports to Canada, TCD to the USA, Belgium and more another country. The two farms lead quality control and production for these companies and "work as a family" as quoted by all.

Founder and Director of Operations Ryan Berk, affectionately known as "teacher" and his co-founders Gymie and Narut, handle customer relations and exporting process. They have been collecting pods exclusively from farms in eastern Thailand since 2013. They now have three centers, two in Chanthaburi and the other in Phetchabun, where beans are fermented and dried.

Pueng and Suriya get fresh pods and wet beans. They note that while fresh or “wet” beans can spoil quickly and they are rarely get from far distance area this way. 

TICC and TCD pay farmers directly but wait six to twelve months for a return on the product. They would like to sell cacao dry beans as well as cocoa powder and reach the cosmetic industry. Although they sell up to 36 metric tons annually, they need more local production to grow. But a lack of facilities and the cost of dry houses put it out of reach for the time being.

ECOSHIFT – Re-think Sustainability

We love to talk to smallholder cacao farmers who embrace sustainability.

Farming cacao benefits the environment. The pods are sensitive, meaning chemical-free sustainable techniques are baked into the process. This is especially true if the goal is to achieve ‘premium’ grade cacao.

Cacao trees are a perennial crop. They do not need to be replanted after each harvest and grow back automatically. Perennials reduce topsoil loss and related ecological damage caused by water erosion or slash-and-burn techniques associated with annual mono-crop planting.

ECOSHIFT re-thinks sustainability by supporting smallholder farmers with soil analysis and remediation techniques to get higher yields without planting more.

ECOSHIFT can help achieve higher quality cacao, more robust yields, better pricing, and long-term contracts. Our supply chain management tech platform captures and verifies each production stage so you meet EU regulations.

Let’s grow better farms and happier families sustainably.

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