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Siena College

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation


The cacao industry is slowly growing in the region of Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is largely populated by indigenous farmers, but there are others who have invested in the business as well. With so many people becoming involved in the industry this study aimed to determine if the system represented a stable model. Through interviews and participant observation the stability of income, steadiness of demand, opportunity for growth, and the effect of organic certification were examined to determine the overall stability. It was found that very few farmers sell only cacao and rely on the sale of other crops, to varying degrees, to supplement their incomes. Although the demand for cacao and chocolate does fluctuate, there seemed to be a steady desire for the products that the farmers were producing. There are many people beginning to farm cacao throughout the region, thus generating more supply to meet the global demand, but once they begin there is not much room for growth. There are two main cooperatives in the region that many farmers are a part of, but once that decision is made many do not have an opportunity to develop within the industry. Finally, in analyzing organic certification, I was met with conflicting opinions pertaining to its benefits and thus met with people who were strongly in favor of it and others who were not. Overall the market has several unstable factors, but there is room for improvement within the industry.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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