Visit to Camden International Commodities Terminal with the World Cocoa Foundation

Nilda Butardo, University of Southern Mindanao (the Philippines), Cocoa Borlaug Fellow
The Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science & Technology Fellowship Program’s Global Cocoa Initiative is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service and implemented in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation. The program supports scientists from select cocoa-producing countries to complete 2-3 month fellowships at a U.S. research institute or university. Nilda Butardo is completing her fellowship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland. Her research focuses on cocoa genetics.

It was one Tuesday morning, the 7th of September 2010. The sun was up but not as scorching as it appears. The weather was fine and just as perfect for a walk, a travel, or a visit of that sort, Clementine Leahy of the World Cocoa Foundation and I boarded the eight o’clock train from Union Station in Washington, DC to Camden, New Jersey for an Indonesian ship visit.

We went directly to the office of Camden International Commodities Terminal, L.L.C., one of the member companies of the World Cocoa Foundation, where we were accommodated for a refreshing sit and a short getting-to-know each other time with the company’s staff. We drove down to the company’s warehouse where thousands and thousands of bagged (they’re in jute sacks) cocoa beans were neatly piled in rows. I also observed the very systematic ways of the workforce there including the piling and loading in cargo trucks of the processors (buyers). Where in the world could these beans come from? I now know that these stored sacks and sacks of cocoa beans came from different countries such as Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire, to name some, and were ordered by processors or chocolatiers, of which, most of them are members of the World Cocoa Foundation.

post1Here I am pictured third from the left with Ryan Wheeler (Camden International), Brandy Lynn (Camden International), and Loren Schroeder (Olam International Ltd.)

We then drove to other warehouses, this time; they were close to the port where the cargo vessel was on dock to unload tons and tons of sacked cocoa beans again. I was startled that the warehouses are again full of cocoa beans neatly piled in place and the crackling, whining sound of forklifts coming to and from the inside of the warehouse, filled the air. One thing I cannot forget about this experience is the general manager who was so accommodating and friendly and very kind to tour us around the warehouses and the port, explaining to us the nature of the venture.

It was my first time to witness a vessel unloading cargo, thousands of sacks of cocoa beans at that. A crane was atop which carefully lifts up a sling filled with bags of beans and gracefully unloads them from the ship onto a hauler truck, one after the other as you can see in this photo:


I was really mystified by the scenery. Where in Indonesia or Côte d’Ivoire did these beans come from? How many cocoa trees bore as much pods to produce as much beans as these? There must be many progressive Indonesian farmers to produce this much cocoa. I hope that I am not wrong with this but the thought is encouraging.

I thought of sharing my pictures of the sack-laden warehouses to my fellow Filipinos especially the farmers in Mindanao. I know this will also encourage them to go on cocoa farming and produce even more and the best cocoa beans in the world. The market should not be a hindrance. The fact is, processors do need cocoa and always will. I say, we must always find ways of establishing market linkages. I do not really know how to do this myself, but I believe there are a lot of agencies- both in the government and the non-governmental organizations who are more than willing to be of help.

Indeed, my experience in Camden was very informative, educational, worthwhile, and remarkable. Besides giving my first time to personally see a ship unloading cargo, it also made me a witness to a fact that cocoa beans are really indispensable. With the unforgettable experience that I had in Camden, I say, thank you Cocoa Borlaug Fellowship Program; thank you, USDA , and, thank you, WCF! May you never tire of helping, especially the third world.

Thank you, Camden International Commodities Terminal, L.L.C.