Let me begin by saying that “Sweetness”, for those who don’t know, was Walter Payton’s nickname and he was possibly the greatest football player of all time and an even better human being. But I digress…the sweetness we’re talking about here is cocoa. Everybody thinks about oil or beauty queens when you mention Venezuela but they are also known, in proper circles, for their quality cocoa.

 Caracas Chronicles did a piece on the little-discussed cocoa business in Venezuela. They tell us that chocolatiers say that while Venezuelan cocoa is appreciated globally, the blessing has been wasted. I know I always thought it strange that with the great cocoa around (supposedly) we bought imported chocolate when I lived in Venezuela.

 Around the year 1800 Venezuela was the largest cocoa producer in the world. Today it’s not even on the list of top producers.We can only guess at production numbers as, like most things in Venezuela, no official numbers are published. Best estimates put production about where it was in 1800 while production everywhere else in the world has dramatically increased. Venezuela produces an estimated 0.04% of the world’s cocoa. What used to be a top asset is now a forgotten myth. Why is that?

 The producers have a small farmer’s mindset, they don’t see it as a business. There is basically no marketing.It’s even hard to get basic information on Venezuelan cocoa. If you email Ingemann Fine Cocoa, in Nicaragua, in less than 24 hours you have everything you need, category, price, availability, delivery cost, permitting, etc. If you email a Venezuelan company, if you can get a hold of them, after several days they won’t have any of the information provided by the Nicaraguan company.

 It’s not like the cocoa isn’t there or can’t be grown there, it’s just the many problems facing anyone wanting to take advantage of the opportunity. In the 20th century the Fondo Nacional de Cacao basically created a state monopoly in terms of purchasing, distribution, exports, even establishing a base price so that basically “all cocoa was created equal” taking away the incentive to produce high quality (at least in the formal economy).

 When you add the threats created by Chavismo, such as expropriation, foreign investors aren’t interested in buying and/or developing land. As one analyst put it “… would love to buy a piece of land…but they don’t…can be confiscated for no reason.”

 There’s also the threat of violence in rural/farming areas. When it’s not violence it’s theft/robbery. In July, renowned chocolatier, Amanda Garcia, returned from a cocao expo to find her home and chocolate shop stripped bare of machines, materials, and finished products…and it’s not the first time this has happened. There is also the theft of cocoa crops as well as the extortion and kidnappings that occur everywhere in Venezuela.

 In Bolivar state, mining activities have taken over lands that were used to harvest food and cocoa. One producer said that the irony is “Bolivar offers over  5,500,000 hectares (13,590,000 acres) free of heavy metals and suited for agriculture, to expand their agricultural border. Us farmers don’t want to find gold or any other metal in our lands because then miners would come and not one cocoa tree would be left standing.”

 it seems to me we have another victim of “the resource curse” (countries finding large deposits of oil or precious metals and overly relying on these resources to the detriment of others). In Venezuela’s case it’s a double whammy. First you had the discovery of Venezuela sitting on top of the world’s largest proven oil reserves so they ignored pretty much everything else. Then, after the Chavistas destroyed the oil business (Before 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism, government-owned oil company, PDVSA, was the most profitable company in the world), they turned, not to other options but to another resource, gold, and the creation of Maduro’s environmentally devastating “Mining Arc”. To make matters even worse, the “Mining Arc” produces hardly any revenue…and Venezuela’s cocoa is still ignored…How sad…

 Moving on…We have Digital Journal reporting that an Argentine judge authorized the departure of 12 crew members from the Emtrasur “mystery flight” detained in Argentina for about two months. Four Iranian and three Venezuelan crew members are still prevented from leaving Argentina.

 And in a related piece we have the US-DOJ (United States Department Of Justice) releasing an official statement saying the US wants to seize the “mystery plane” still in Argentina. They claim it was illegal for the previous owner, Mahan Air, (under US sanction) to transfer the Boeing 747 (a US-produced plane) to Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline) subsidiary Emtrasur. Under the sanction, Mahan Air, is prevented from engaging in any transaction regarding a US-produced product, which the Boeing 747 clearly is.

 Then we have Gov.UK telling us that the UK government’s advice for travel to Venezuela remains unchanged. No travel to the border areas and only essential travel to the rest of the country.

 And speaking of travel to Venezuela, we have Rio Times reporting that the Venezuela government now requires a Covid-19 “Bio- Security Traveler’s Passport” to enter Venezuela. The new mandatory pass is managed through the “Bio- check Automated System” created by INAC (National Institute of Civil Aeronautics). A new system and additional bureaucracy run by the Chavistas…what could possibly go wrong? Remember, they are supposedly trying to entice tourists to visit Venezuela.

 Then we have the Peoples Gazette reporting that the Nigerian Navy handed over a vessel loaded with diesel as well as 4 crew members, including one Venezuelan, to the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), The investigation is ongoing.

 And Nasdaq reports Venezuela oil exports were down in July by 27% due to power outages and a pipeline fire. The numbers are from a combination of PDVSA documents and Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data so they’re probably pretty accurate. The numbers also reflect a 38% drop from July, 2021.

 Before we sign off for the week I want to take a moment to remember my man, “Sweetness”, Walter Payton. For those who don’t know, after “Sweetness” retired from football he was confronted with a dire health situation and required a transplant. When told, due to his obvious fame and fortune, he could be moved to the front of the line on the transplant waiting list he declined, saying it wouldn’t be fair to those already on the list. He died awaiting his transplant. RIP “Sweetness”…

 That will do it for another week. We’ll see y’all Monday. Have a great weekend everybody!!!!


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