Interview with Arif Khan, Founder/Director, Cacao Fiji, Fiji
Arif Khan, a native Fijian and founder of Cacao Fiji, saw potential for new life in this industry. After working as a realtor in California for seventeen years, Arif decided he wanted to return to his roots and pursue “something agriculture-based…and with an element of social impact.”
Could you explain how you created Cacao Fiji and how it has grown?
In 2012, I met several farmers on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, who were “passionate about cocoa farming” but struggled to find markets for their products. The distinctive flavor profile imparted by Fiji’s unique terroir impressed my wife and I once we tried a bar made of their beans. These events inspired me to move back to my home country and make it his mission to help revive Fiji’s cacao industry.
To date, we have two cocoa processing centers in the two major islands, Vanua Levu & Viti Levu. We work with approximately 100 farmers and growing
What is specific about the quality of your cocoa which has got a strong recognition?
The beans have a unique taste due to the unique terroir
Who are the farmers groups you work with and how this business has improved their income?
The farmers who lacked market now have market access on the ground. We buy wet seeds from farmers and we help them improve their yield via training and supply of equipment and that helps to increase their bottom line income.
Could you tell us which are your markets and customers?
Our beans are sold to craft chocolate makers in France, USA, Canada, NZ to various chocolate makers. Our target is craft and artisan producers . Some of the chocolate companies are Chapon (france), Ocho (NZ), Soma ( Canada) , Indi (USA), Dick Taylor (USA)
Is Cacao Fiji coffee sold to the tourism industry (hotels, restaurants, airlines, cruises…)?
Is it used by chefs in promoting local cuisine? We have recently introduced value added products such as cacao nibs and the chefs are really embracing it. We are launching chef chocolate and artisan craft chocolate ( see Vanuachocolate.com)
What are your future plans?
Our plans are to help revive the Cacao industry of Fiji, increase farmers to 1000 and plan to export 50-100 tonnes . We want to expand our exports to Europe to companies such as Valhorna. However, we will need a lot of help to do that in terms of helping farmers to increase production.