For most of us, thinking of Far North Queensland conjures up images of lush greenery, tropical holiday spots, crocodiles and vast fields of sugar cane. However, these days those fields of sugar cane aren’t quite as vast as they used to be. When the bottom dropped out of the Australian sugar market and prices fell sharply just over 11 years ago, many cane growers moved out of the industry that had supported their families for generations. As more and more cane properties were being sold of for housing subdivisions, the threat of seeing valuable arable land built over gave some of the remaining cane growers the incentive to start thinking of ways to diversify and adapt to the prevailing economic conditions. Back in the 1960’s and ’70’s there had been some successful individual attempts to grow cocoa in Far North Queensland using beans imported from Papua New Guinea, but it was clear that Australian cocoa production could not successfully compete with world cocoa bean prices.
Nevertheless, by the end of the 20th century much thought had been given to alternative crops for the region and this week, after extensive research by former chocolate industry experts and government agricultural researchers, Daintree Estates Australian Cocoa is ready to launch the first ever Australian single origin chocolate and Australian single origin organic chocolate. Chocolate is one of the products which can present those who are keen to embrace the locavore ethos with something of a dilemma, but this exciting new brand gives us all the option to chose a truly local, ethically produced product. Employing a business model which makes the growers not only suppliers but shareholders too, and using local products including Queensland raw sugar, Daintree Estates controls the entire chain of production from growing the seedlings to blending, conching, mixing and packaging this premium, distinctive Australian chocolate, guaranteeing the power to deliver the “plantation to palate” promise to consumers.
The local growers have been quick to embrace this opportunity to diversify their businesses, although some of them have come from families who have grown sugar cane for over 70 years. Many of these families could see the writing on the wall in 2000 and appreciate the benefits of varying and/or combining their agricultural practices to include cocoa among their crops thus reducing the risk of financial exposure inherent in placing all of ones agricultural eggs in the one basket. (Oh dear, I think I’ve mixed my metaphors there.)
Daintree Estates Australian Chocolates are to be launched this afternoon in Port Douglas and, also this afternoon, their website store will be open for secure, online ordering. At this stage their products include 80 gm blocks of both 45% Milk Chocolate and 70% Dark Chocolate and gift boxes of 12 pieces of 7 gm individually wrapped pieces in both the Milk and Dark. All website orders will have free shipping within Australia, so it won’t cost us extra to ethically indulge in what promises to be a great new Australian product. I will take this opportunity to state that I have yet to try this product, but am pretty keen to get my hands on some and will be among the first off the ranks when the store opens!