Inaugural Nicaraguan Chocolate Festival gets under way

EFE

Liqueurs and soft drinks based on cocoa were among the products showcased here Friday at the first Nicaraguan Chocolate Festival.

The idea behind the event is to "stimulate the activity of this sector in the context of the difficulties we are experiencing in the country," Mario Arana, general manager of the Association of Producers and Exporters of Nicaragua (APEN), told reporters.

Sales of chocolate have plunged 60 percent amid ongoing political turmoil in the Central American nation, Arana said.

Nicaragua exports roughly $7 million worth of cocoa and chocolate annually and the trade represents an important source of income for at least 27,000 families, according to APEN data.

"It is a sector that we see in expansion, with a lot of new cultivation, such that we were imagining that we would reach about $50 million in the next five years," Arana said.

He added, however, that investment in the sector has fallen due to the crisis that erupted in April.

The ambassadors of Argentina, Colombia and Taiwan were present for the opening of the festival, which will feature lectures, chocolate tastings, workshops for children who want to learn how to make chocolate and sales of a wide range of cocoa-based products.

The lectures will recount the history of cocoa cultivation in Nicaragua and detail its nutritional value and therapeutic benefits.

In September 2015, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) added Nicaragua to the list of countries that export fine or flavor cocoa, as opposed to bulk cocoa.

The cocoa that is grown in Nicaragua is of the trinitarian type, which constitutes the preferred raw material for making fine and dark chocolates.

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