Sunday, February 9, 2014

Can Vietnam profit from luxury chocolate production?

I am always happy to read about good things happening in Vietnam.  This country suffered greatly during the Vietnam War (1964 - 1975) and still suffers from some problems that were caused by the war and which have not ended (like harmful chemicals left in the soil from the war).  Here is a story about the developing chocolate industry in this country.

Vietnam is a developing country of about 90 million people.  One of their main exports is coffee. Like many of the South East Asian economies, it is primarily an agricultural (farming) country that has a limited industrial sector - so economic growth is dependent on the various crops that might be grown. 

An interesting article about two French businessmen who are developing a chocolate business in Vietnam:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

luxury - an item is a luxury item if only a few people can afford it or if it is of high quality and very expensive

a pioneer - someone who does something first; someone who goes where others have not gone

The Mekong Delta - this is a little area at the southern tip of Vietnam.  A delta is any area that is shaped like an upside down triangle and which faces the sea.

they have their heads buried - they have their heads literally inside the sack (bag) containing the beans so that they can smell the beans better

cocoa bean - the cocoa bean actually comes from a type of fruit that is grown from a tree.  This type of tree was first found in South America and later imported to other parts of the world, especially West Africa.  The cocoa bean is extracted (removed) from the fruit and then dried and then processed into chocolate.

an artisan is someone who makes something by hand, so an artisan chocolate maker is someone or a small group that makes fine, quality chocolate from the best materials.

resurface - they take their heads out of the sack

to murmur - to speak in a low tone, usually to yourself, so that nobody can even hear what you are saying

appreciatively - they murmured appreciatively, meaning they liked what they smelled; if you do anything appreciatively, it means you valued or appreciated something

sweet-toothed - if you have 'a sweet tooth', this means you like sweet tasting things

an entrepreneur - a businessman/woman

fermented - do you know how wine is made?  Grapes are crushed and then 'yeast' (little microorganisms) is introduced into the liquid and engage in a chemical process that turns the grape juice into an alcoholic beverage.  Cocoa beans are also treated in this way - they are packed together and yeast is introduced and the beans begin to undergo a chemical process that turns them into chocolate.  Unless the cocoa beans are fermented, you will not get chocolate.

a premium on the market price - basically they are paying a higher price for quality beans.

to nibble - to bite gently on something

a nib - a piece

never took off - never became successful

emerging markets - developing countries

eyeing - assessing, determining whether it will be good or not

communist - a communist economy is a state-controlled economy; the USA has a capitalist economy, which means that the government can regulate businesses a little bit, but it does not determine what is produced or try to control the production processes

inventory - the amount of cocoa that exists

a deficit - this means that cocoa or chocolate will be in high demand but there will be a low supply or inventory

to diversify its beans - to get beans from all over the world and to grow more of them all over the place

supply crunches due to political unrest - for instance, Ivory Coast recently had a civil war. That country had been supplying most of the world with chocolate. During the war, there was a supply shortage or crunch of chocolate - there just wasn't enough.  If more countries grew chocolate, there would never be this type of crunch.

nascent - growing

a crossroads - if your life is at a crossroads, you have to make an important decision and you might not be able to change your mind later

quality or quantity - so the choice is to produce a lot of cheap chocolate or less but higher quality chocolate

US anti-dumping measures - the US refuses to allow Vietnamese catfish to be brought into the US because the price is so low it will hurt other suppliers of catfish.  So if you have a lot of a product and it is cheap and you introduce the product into a market, you are dumping the product on the market. (anti means against)

a rebellion against homogeneity - they are fighting against one type of product

incredibly soulless - if chocolate is made cheaply, it tastes bad and has no real quality; a soul is the spiritual part of a human...some people say we are made up of a body and a soul

to push - to encourage

they aimed - the set a goal

certified beans - beans that meet very high standards

new cocoa strains - new types of cocoa

praline - this is the powder that can be made from unfermented cocoa beans (it can be used in cookies)

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