The Anamalai Farm is a cocoa, coconut, and nutmeg farm located near the town of Pollachi, in a region famous throughout India for its high quality coconuts. The entire area, located at the southernmost foothills of India’s Western Ghats, is covered in coconut plantations. Harish Manoj and Karthi Palaniswamy, who own and operate Anamalai, have intercropped their own coconut palms with cocoa and nutmeg trees to diversify and keep the land healthy. They manage their water use with drip irrigation and keep a small herd of cows for weeding and manure compost. The cocoa is fermented in 5 tiers of wood boxes and sun dried on raised beds. While the majority of the harvest is processed for export, a small portion goes to Harish and Karthi’s local line of bean to bar chocolates, which they are producing to keep up with India’s growing demand for craft chocolate.
Cacao has been produced in India for more than 50 years. Right at the end of the British Colonial Rule in India, around1948, UK chocolate giant Cadbury set up operations in India for the distribution and sale of its products. Initially, it imported already-made chocolate from the UK. It was not long, however, before it saw an opportunity: India’s climate is suitable for cacao, so why not manufacture chocolate in India, using cacao beans grown in the country? They launched a program to introduce cacao production in the southern regions of India, complete with training programs and extensionists. To this day, the majority of cacao grown in India heads to Mondelez (the owner of Cadbury). Given the size of India, however, its cacao production remains small, representing only 0.3% of the world’s production
“Some mornings, Harish Manoj and Karthi Palaniswamy will arrive at their farm to find their young coconut palms devastated, with broken fronds as if a hurricane has come through. The source of the destruction is no storm, however—it’s elephants. The farm is right at the base of the western Ghats, a mountain range which extends through the south of India. Lots of elephants (and tigers and monkeys) live on the slopes of those mountains, safe in the Anamalai animal preserve (Anamalai is Tamil for ‘Elephant Hills’). The elephants will lumber down onto the farm at night to help themselves to the coconut trees–not for the coconuts, but for the palm fronds themselves, which, as it turns out, are perfect tools for whacking pesky mosquitos off their backs. Amongst this wild backdrop, Harish and Karthi have begun their mission to make their small valley, known for its abundance of coconuts, an unlikely source of delicious cacao.”