Supporting farming livelihoods of Solomon Islands women through boutique cocoa bean export

Diana Yates is Managing Director of Cathliro, a producer and supplier of sun dried (smoke free) cocoa beans. She works closely with Solomon Island’s small cocoa growers to improve their farming practices and ensure they get best prices for their ‘wet’ beans. Cathliro purchases their beans, and then ferments and sun-dries them to a reliably high standard – achieving “a consistent flavour of light fruity and floral notes”.

Diana is very much conscious of the challenges women and girls face in her country – such as their difficulties of staying in school and in finding meaningful employment. Consequently, Diana is motivated to see other Solomon Island women to succeed. She strongly supports women farmers in her supply chain, and uses Cathliro as a means to improve the circumstances of those connected to her business.

Following her participation in the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally program in 2018, Diana has shifted the focus of Cathliro from the ‘bulk market’ to servicing the ‘bean to bar’ movement. The latter is concerned with higher quality small productions, able to trace every aspect of the supply chain, and achieving distinct flavours. It caters for the boutique premium market.
During her time in Australia, Diana connected with Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) and has sold some 10MT of sun-dried beans to an Australian importer (SSM International) in May 2020. Another 15MT is expected to be delivered by the end of the year (2020). But she worries that the fall in international demand and the problem of moving goods out of Honiara during Covid-19 may prove to be an unmanageable hurdle.
For the future, Diana also stressed the need for expert assistance in boosting their unique value proposition, and for support towards securing certification in prospective markets, such as the EU.
Nevertheless, she is moving forward, including in her reassessment of Cathliro’s business model and reaching out to new customers in the UK and mainland Europe. Diana’s experience with Women Trading Globally has usefully enhanced her exporting knowledge and further strengthened her confidence to pursue new avenues and international opportunities.