The plant Coleccion Castro Naranjal (CCN-51) was created in Ecuador by Homer Castro in the 1960s, but was not widely planted in the country until El Niño repercussions devastated the country’s fine flavor Nacional crop in 1997/98.
It has greater resistance to fungal diseases and produces higher yields compared to Latin America’s fine flavor varieties.
But it has been maligned for becoming a monocrop in some nations with Valrhona’s sensory expert claiming it is damaging Latin America’s cocoa quality as farmers neglect fine flavor cocoa.
CCN-51 in Ecudaor
A 2015 report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated CCN-51 accounted for 36% of Ecuadorian cocoa production, just behind leading variety Arriba Superior Época/Nacional (37% of production).
The Association of National Exporters of Cocoa in Ecuador (Anecacao) said CCN-51 accounted for 30% of Ecuador’s cocoa exports (70,000 tons) in 2015, while Arriba Superior Época/Nacional made up 47%, equivalent to 110,000 tons.
‘Good chocolate’ if fermented properly
Manuel Gutiérrez, business manager for cocoa sourcing in Ecuador for Nestlé, told ConfectioneryNews: “CCN51 is a popular hybrid and the yields are typically double that of Nacional.
“It is a very compelling alternative for farmers and can’t be ignored. If fermented properly it can produce good chocolate with fruity notes.”
Under its sustainability initiative the Nestlé Cocoa Plan, Nestlé has provided technical training to cocoa farmers in the provinces of Manabí, Esmeraldas and Pichincha on grafting techniques for CCN-51.
The farmers hope to use the grafting methods for 30,000 CCN-51 plants already on their farms, which they planted between 2015 and 2017.
Nestlé expects the grafting techniques will save farmers 60% of the local price for purchasing new plants.
Protecting Nacional cocoa
Gutiérrez said Nestlé was also protecting Ecuador’s fine flavor cocoa.
“Preserving the traditional Nacional varieties has been a key pillar of the Nestlé. Since 2009, Nestlé Ecuador has provided 700,000 Nacional plants to renew the cocoa orchards and helped farmers maximize the yields from these plants,” he said.
He added: “The Nacional cocoa beans are the variety which can deliver Arriba flavor and can be used to produce fine chocolate with floral notes.”
The Ecuadorian cocoa sourcing chief said Nestlé would support farmers on good agricultural practices regardless of the variety they want to plant.
Read more about the pros and cons of CCN-51 HERE.
A study published this month by Barragán et al. said the Ecuadorian cocoa industry has suffered because Nacional fine flavor cocoa batches are often adulterated with CCN-51.
“This has damaged the relationship of trust between Ecuadorian sellers and international buyers, and caused the loss of market niches. The adulteration is viewed as an obstacle to marketing Arriba cocoa from Ecuador,” said the researchers.
The scientists proposed a method using computer vision technology to detect adulteration.