Project Spotlight: Less Than A Container Load Coca Export Project

On Friday May 13, the first container of cocoa beans was sent to chocolate makers in the United Kingdom under the innovative Less Than A Container Load pilot. This container contains cocoa beans from 50 farmer groups and consolidators across Guadalcanal and Isabel, and is the first sign of success that the Less Than A Container Load project.

Cocoa grower and consolidator David Kebu, James Kana, Australian High Commissioner Lachlan Strahan and Diana Yates from Cathliro sending off the container full of cocoa at the Honiara Port.

Earth Water People have been working on the communication, technology and social impact aspects of this project with Uenisu’unu Agribusiness Group on this project since 2019. The Less Than a Container Load (LCL) Access to Markets project aims to revolutionise the export market by allowing local cocoa growers and consolidators to share the costs of freight and logistics. It seeks to achieve this through the use of a digital platform, which has been developed by Common Code, where exporters can share information as well as the space and costs of shipping containers for export.

Cocoa consolidator Diana Yates from Cathliro and Project Manager James Kana of Uenisu’unu Agribusiness Group consolidating the first container for the UK. Photo by Samantha Kies-Ryan.

Project Coordinator James Kana explains, “This is over 150 bags of premium sun dried cocoa beans that will be shipped to the UK. From here the beans will be travelling on to Malaysia, then from Malaysia is takes another boat to the UK…These beans will be going out to two buyers in the UK, Firetree and Pump Street.”

Through sharing the cost of using an integrated LCL system and storage facility, smallholder growers and consolidators will be able to have access to otherwise inaccessible export markets. The collaborative nature of the integrated LCL system makes it possible for each stakeholder to buy-in and be able to see the value of what they are investing in. It makes the freight cost of exports proportionate to the volumes being traded and available from smallholder growers and consolidators.

Cathliro buyer Joyce Tafi with cocoa grower Teresa Sirilo from Pakalova in East Guadalcanal, who grows some of the cocoa beans that are being sent to the UK.

One of the farmers whose cocoa beans are being exported in this shipment is David Kebu, a farmer and consolidator from Guadalcanal, who says, “LCL is a good platform. It helps us farmers who have been struggling. This is a niche market, with only small quantities, so at least it helps us to put together our beans into the one container.”

One of the consolidators that the LCL program is working in partnership with to access export markets is Diana Yates, the Manager of Cathliro chocolate company, who said, “I think the LCL is a great initiative. We have been able to make contact with the buyers. This is our first LCL that is going out. There is two buyers from the UK and there’s several suppliers, so that benefits the farmers…it’s actually benefited a bigger group than just an individual.”

Wet cocoa beans as they are collected from the farm before they are fermented and sun dried for export.

The pilot project is being run by local agribusiness entrepreneur James Kana of Ueniusu’unu Agribusiness Group, along with Samantha Kies-Ryan from Earth Water People and James’ sister Rose Kana. Other partners in the project include Solomon Ports, Express Freight Management (EFM) and Common Code. The initiative is being funded by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA Plus) through its Export Business Recovery Initiative Grant designed to help the economy recover from the impacts of COVID 19. This project has been supported by the International Center for Diplomatic Partnerships (ICDP) through their Pacific Connect program.

The pilot model has the potential to be applied in other agricultural products- such as copra, coffee, vanilla or noni. There is already interest in taking it to other countries in the Pacific- such as Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

This post originally appeared on Earth Water People’s website, which you can view here

Dr Samantha Kies-Ryan

Dr Samantha Kies-Ryan


Samantha is a communication, community engagement and social impact specialist. She is an experienced communications and media professional with 15 years’ experience working in Australia and the Pacific in communication for development and social change, community-based media across print, radio, digital storytelling and film. She has a Bachelor degree in Communication, Media and Culture from the University of South Australia and a Master degree in Communication for Social Change from the University of Queensland. Samantha is currently completing her Doctorate at the Queensland University of Technology, which is focused on community cultural story mapping in community-based water management in the Solomon Islands. She is a long-term member of the Pacific Connect Community.