“Our goal while establishing this company was to revitalize the cocoa industry in Fiji, make farmers in Fiji have a better view of the potential there is in the cocoa market and improve their livelihoods.”
Meet Tomohito Zukoshi, who with his family established the farming, processing and trading chocolate company known as Fijian Cacao and Adi Chocolate in Savusavu, Vanua Levu in the year 2005.
Cacao was first introduced in Fiji by the British in the 1880’s together with sugarcane and peaked in production in the 1980’s.
Tomohito and his wife Harumi Zukoshi are the founders of the pure, high-quality, dark chocolates of Fijiana Cacao and Adi Chocolate.
“My family migrated to Fiji in 2004 to start a Japanese restaurant in Savusavu. We started experimenting on cocoa beans which was then added to the restaurant cuisine,” he said.
With limited knowledge on production, the expansion of the chocolate business was based on research on the internet.
“Afterwards we decided to close the restaurant and go into chocolate processing in 2005-06 and with limited materials, we started manually,” said Tomohito.
The numerous set-backs towards the successful running of the chocolate business did not deter the interest of the Japanese family as they moved to Viti Levu for the set-up of their factory in Nadi.
“With the demand coming in from hotels in Viti Levu, we opened up a tiny chocolate processing facility with support from the Fijian, Australian and New Zealand Governments,” said Tomohito.
“The chocolate industry is at a growing stage, there is competition coming in which is very good because of grades, the market is unlimited in size and we have to pave the right way for our future produce premium chocolate.”
However, global competition, natural disasters, cocoa diseases and under-investment have led to the progressive long-term decline of the industry.
“After the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Winston, farmers are sceptical about cocoa farming,” he said.
“Farmers are faced with the difficulties of the distance of cocoa farms from their houses because cocoa needs constant pruning and clearing. The other things are transportation, post harvesting (fermenting and sun drying) processes and the market,” he added.
“With all these, I keep encouraging farmers in supplying areas of Ra and Tailevu and in the North to start realizing potentials, that they can do it,” affirmed Tomohito.
The company’s ethic of working with farmers has uplifted the moral to another standard.
The Company has also been assisting farmers with education, fermentation kits and many other initiatives to help improve their livelihoods and grow Fiji’s overall cocoa industry.
“The possibilities of farmers becoming industrial suppliers of cocoa beans are high and that is what we have been trying to emphasize to the farmers.”
“The value is higher and I would like to assure them that the market is available not only us but there are other chocolate companies coming up together with the demand,” he said.
Tomohito indicates that through these methods the importation of chocolate would decrease as he has proven it seeing as the ingredients he uses are locally sourced, milk being the only exception.
“There is a future in this industry and working together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmers, it can be revitalized as the raw material is really important.”
Adi Chocolate supplies assorted chocolates locally to hotels and the airport duty-free shops while exporting internationally to their homeland of Japan as well as to Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America and to Scandinavia.
Manufactured flavours include plain coverture chocolates for hotel chefs, chilli flavoured, coconut flavoured, sesame flavoured, ginger flavoured, lime and refined kava flavoured strands.
“In a year, the total production is 17-20 tonnes, manufacturing 2,000 to 3,000 chocolate bars a day and more than 10,000 chocolate bars a week,” said Tomohito.
“We have farmers from Rakiraki, Tailevu and the North and in a week we collect a total of 50-200 kilograms and now we need to collect more, basically 1-2 tonnes a week and we are buying dried beans at $6 for A grade and $5 for B grade.”
“Cocoa farmers will have to keep planting, it might be hard work but trust me, the market is here, and the market needs cacao, follow the right process and liase with the Ministry of Agriculture,” he advised.
“Whoever has cocoa trees please feel free to contact us as we try to pave the way for revitalisation of cocoa and turn it into a source of livelihood.”
For all their efforts, the company recently scooped the Best Small Business prize at the 2016 Prime Minister’s International Business Awards showing just how lucrative and rewarding the cocoa industry truly is.