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Anti-Cocaine Efforts Irk Chocoholics

Interference in Peruvian cocoa farming leaves chocolate aficionados bitter.

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Fiends want the 100% pure Peruvian stuff.
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By Bryan Le

04/26/12

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Some unexpected new victims have been caught in the crossfire of the war on drugs: connoisseurs of fine chocolate. Looking to curb production of Peruvian cocaine, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) broke a semi-sweet deal with local cocoa farmers: if they stop planting coca—the native, low yield crop that's the main ingredient of cocaine—USAID will give them CCN-51, a high-yield and bulk-selling hybrid cocoa. But the decision to import genetically spliced cocoa has aggravated some chocolate makers: CCN-51 tends to have an acidic flavor and lacks the complex and subtle flavors connoisseurs crave, so many chocolatiers want Peruvian farmers to cultivate native Peruvian cocoa instead. While the pure native cocoa is lower yield and more susceptible to disease than CCN-51, it's market price is almost double: pure cocoa sells for $4000 per ton compared to just $2400 per ton for the hybrid version. “Peru is a country of fine, aromatic cocoa, and like all good things it comes in small quantities,” says Mariella Balbi, owner of a Guanni Chocolates. USAID says it could reconsider the bargain, and might encourage native cocoa production if it's best for Peru's futureand this may be the case as global demand grows for organic food. "USAID did a fine job developing an alternative crop with CCN-51, but times change. What people want changes," says Astrid Gutsche, pastry chef and wife of Peruvian food icon Gaston Acurio. "This idea of native cocoa is quite new and I believe it's the future for Peru. We have something that no one else has."

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