Barriers to entry cocoa bean counter edition

Becoming a cocoa beans grader is about four times harder than passing the New York State Bar exam, judging by a comparison of the two tests’ pass rates.

Candidates must correctly identify defects in beans such as mold, infestation from insects and cocoa that is “smoky or hammy”—a sign that the beans have been dried over a fire, not in the sun. Since beans easily absorb odors, the fire can give the beans a smoky flavor. In another section, they must identify the origin of various beans, most of which look identical to the layperson’s eye.

David Morales, one of the three men huddled over the beans in the ICE’s grading room, says he failed twice before he passed the exam two years ago. “I was studying for it, but not enough,” said the 37-year-old Bronx native, who noted the origin section tripped him up.

Is it a public sector monopoly, private sector monopoly, or some combination of both?  Or is it just really hard to do well, requiring individuals of truly specialized abilities and with a lot of value at stake?:

The problem is that there are only 24 certified graders for ICE and the exchange is concerned that retirement and old age will deprive it of a crucial cog in its commodity-trading machine.

In an effort to “keep the talent pure and fresh,” the exchange is offering its licensing exam in October for the first time in two years, said Valerie Colaizzo, managing director of commodities operations for the exchange.

The full article is here, hat tip goes to the excellent Daniel Lippman, note by the way that Daniel’s most recent piece is here.


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