The importance of cooperatives during COVID-19 crisis in cocoa sector Bolivia


El Ceibo R.L. in Bolivia is a second level cooperative, working in the agro industrial production chain of organic cocoa and other products. They work under criteria of economic, social and environmental sustainability. They also have the mission of satisfying the needs of its associates and producers in the field, with its own self-management under the philosophy of the cooperatives values.

El Ceibo has managed to grow a lot in over 40 years since its creation. Today, with the COVID-19 crisis, many ways of operating have changed. Some of the main changes for El Ceibo are:
  • Most of their commercial stores are closed, except for the main ones, that have permission to sell.
  • They are producing at only 50% of their capacity and their sales have dropped almost 60% in the national market.
  • They are still exporting and looking for new markets.
  • They are not producing all their products, they are focusing on the most required ones, like cocoa powder and other cooking cocoa products.
  • They have established a crisis team, in charge of the Quality Control manager that is always updated about the changes of the governmental restrictions and taking actions in how to move forward.
  • They are communicating their farmers about the crisis and other procedures.
  • They have taken all measures in order to keep on working, producing, distributing and selling.
  • The drop in sales impacted their factory expansion plans this year. 

Being able to buy food in rural areas 

El Ceibo has more than 43 cooperatives to cover, with more than 1,200 families. They have taken the corporative values and they are making sure food is arriving to the remote areas where their producers live. 
They were able to buy food for 100% of their associates, making a food pack with noodles, rice, sugar, protein, oil, milk, cocoa powder alcohol for disinfection. They took the packs in their own trucks and vehicles to the remote areas, giving their producers the opportunity to acquire them in a very accessible price, since the prices of food have been risen during the emergency.
Taking advantage of this, many families from the towns where their producer live, some of them that are not even associates, have also been able to buy this food packs. This program should continue as long as the crisis keeps on going, because food is not arriving to rural areas as much as before and since the cooperative vehicles have the permissions to travel, they can take it. Once more, this shows how important it is to be part of a cooperative, where the values are shared and support can be arrive when most needed.

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