El Rey offers consumers gourmet chocolate made from fairly traded cacao beans direct from small and large-scale growers in Venezuela. In our business there is no extraordinary cast of middlemen, otherwise known as “coyotes”, who pay the lowest price to growers. On the contrary, El Rey seeks to balance the inequities found in the conventional third world trade by having established Aprocao, which is a democratically run cooperative managed by El Rey and which pays above-market prices for its cacao beans.
Our trading partners are small growers and large who deal directly with Aprocao without intermediaries. Through Aprocao El Rey teaches growers how to manage the soil in a sustainable agricultural system promoting natural cycles without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and how to ferment each cacao harvest to earn the best price. To quote PCC Natural Markets, “El Rey Chocolate also pays a premium to the Venezuelan farmers that grow its cacao…"
Cocoa farming is labor intensive. Many smallholder farmers grow cocoa in much the same way as their parents and grandparents did. Many lack access to reliable information and advice on how to improve their farms, and cannot afford new planting materials and other inputs. El Rey is uniquely positioned to help improve the lives of cocoa farmers in ways that are mutually rewarding and beneficial.
Through our training programs we partner up with cocoa farmers directly to introduce good agriculture practices and post-harvest techniques, in order to achieve higher yields and improve the quality of our cocoa beans. This in turn brings higher incomes and better standards of living to our farmers and their families. We not only guarantee our farmers a fair price but we also pay them directly and 60% above market price.
For many years we have been training farmers in better farming practices such as weeding, pruning, reducing losses from pests and disease and establishing good fermentation and drying processes to nurture the inherent flavors of the cocoa beans. We strongly believe that training farmers successfully is key to building a sustainable cacao chain as well as helping increase farmers' incomes and supporting the future growth of cocoa farming.
We strongly believe cocoa farmers and their families will benefit
directly from higher yields, that is why we’ve made direct investments
in building tree nurseries and centers that help improve production and
The seeds planted in our nurseries come from trees that not only produce high yields but have also proven to have a strong resistance to disease.
We’re teaming up with Conindustria, the European Union, and Venezuela Competitiva to transform cacao farmers into micro-entrepreneurs. Through a rigidly designed 4-month training session focusing on agriculture, microeconomics and macroeconomics we hope to give farmers the tools they need in order to succeed. We highly prioritize these development projects to benefit farmers around the sustainability principles of economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.
We have adapted some of our initial performance targets to better match the capacities of our farmers and the realities in the field. While some cooperatives have demonstrated continuous improvement, others have struggled to reach targets.
Many cooperatives need financing assistance before and during the crop season to support their farmer members and for operational purposes. El Rey not only offers of interest-free loans. but also hands out cutting saws, fermentation boxes as well as other gear.