The New York Times, September 4, 1899, p. 4:
CACAO CULTURE IN ECUADOR.Cost of Cultivation Is Small and Profits Large--Plant Requires Warmth and Moisture.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3.--The Bureau of Foreign Commerce of the Department of State has just published an article on the cultivation of cacao in Ecuador.
The article calls attention to the fact that the Aztecs were familiar with the cacao, and used chocolate as a national beverage. Chocolate is an Aztec word. Its original form was "chocolatl," derived from "cacao-latl," or cacao-water. It is thought that cacao came originally from Mexico.
The plant requires a very warm and humid climate. The temperature must be from 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and there must be a copious rainfall:
The preparation of the land for a cacao plantation... consists in clearing it of small trees, underbrush, and weeds, but leaving the large umbrageous trees.|
The space between the trees is planted in corn, arrowroot, or plantains, the latter in abundance, with the double object of affording shade to the delicate cacao and producing immedidate income.
These crops are grown until the fifth or sixth year, when the cacao has reached a height of 8 or 9 feet, commences to bear fruit, and enters upon a stage of perfect vitality. then auxiliary crops cease to be planted, and the ground is left clear, save for the umbrageous trees, which generally stand at intervals of forty or fifty yards.
In the sixth or seventh year, the tree commences to bear, but the pods at this time are very small and scarcely repay the effort to gather them. In the tenth year the tree reaches full maturity. It then produces on an average one pound of dry cocoa of good quality.
Cocoa ad, Apr 1, 1895 LA Times
The cacao tree grows to a height of twenty or thirty feet; the base of the main trunk attains a thickness of eight to ten inches.|
The blossom is very small, pinkish white, and waxlike in appearance. It grows directly out of the main trunk and branches.
The cacao pod is of golden color, and contains some twenty to twenty-five grains of cacao, enveloped in a gummy liquid. The outer rind of this pod is dark or golden yellow in color and very hard, a sharp instrument being necessary to cut it open.
Its size varies, according to the kind of cacao, from eight to fifteen inches long by from two to six inches thick.
The outer rind is marked by longitudinal furrows, more or less pronounced, which indicate the interior arrangement of the seeds.
Both the outer rind and the gummy contents of the pod are porous and blacken in color as soon as picked, and in Ecuador are of use only to fertilize the soil upon which they are cast.
The seed or bean of the cacao is about the size and shape of a large almond. When dry, it is vitreous in appearance, covered by a skin more or less delicate, which is easily removed and which contains a distinct pellicle. The color varies from dark coffee to violet, the latter indicating an inferior grade.
As soon as the pods begin to ripen they are removed with pruning knives, very sharp, and attached to the end of long poles, which are lengthened by joints as often as required.
As the twigs are very tough, the blow with this instrument must be strong and well aimed, and the laborers must be experienced on account of the particular skill that is required and the fatigue that attends handling heavy poles sometimes 30 feet long, with the face continually upturned.
The cost of cultivation is small, not exceeding 6 or 7 sucres per 100 pounds, delivered in Guayaquil. This includes management, cleaning, weeding, harvesting, drying, transporting, and every possible contingency except interest on the capital invested. The value of the sucre is very nearly 49 cents.
The profits of a plantation depend chiefly on the quality of the land, management, and nearness to market.
Taking as a fair average 1 pound per tree, which is a certain minimum, a hacienda of 100,000 trees will produce 1,000 quintals, worth at the present market price $22,500; the expenses (maximum) would be about $7,000, and the net result per year would be $15,000 or more--a profit of from 40 to 50 per cent per annum on the capital invested, which will continue for an indefinite period, cacao trees lasting for several generations.
With $10,000 invested in buying land and making advances to sembradores, as the cacao planters are called, it is possible to plant 40,000 to 50,000 trees, which, when bearing, represent a value of, say, $60,000, and will pay 12 to 15 per cent annually on this value.
The consumption of cacao has increased very rapidly, the rate far exceeding that of coffee. It is increasing at the rate of about 5 to 6 per centum yearly. The uses to which cacao is put are stated as follows:
Cacao is the principal element in chocolate and various kinds of confectionery. As an article of food, it is very nutritious, healthful, and stimulating. The "butter" of cacao is well known in medicine, and is used in the cure of skin diseases of all kinds with good results. The [seeds], roasted and ground, are used for 'cocoa,' a drink well known in the countries of the temperate zone, but used here only by the poorer classes.|
The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1899 was equivalent to $25.82 in 2008.
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