Transforming Caribbean Cocoa

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - March 29, 2015

Above: a cacao plantation (CJ Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

The University of the West Indies’ Cocoa Research Centre has embarked on a major new project: to transform the region’s cocoa sector.

The new project, dubbed the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre, is the brainchild of the Cocoa Research Centre and its partners, funded by a $2.17 million grant from the European Union.

It’s all part of a bid to capture a greater share of the $100 billion global cocoa industry, which is slated to grow by another 20 percent over the next decade.

“The Caribbean is held in high regard as a cocoa-producing region because most countries produce a fine or aromatic (as opposed to bulk) cocoa,” said Kathrin Renner, International Cooperation Officer of the Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago. “I think we would all agree that the Caribbean region holds great potential to be a major player in the international fine cocoa and chocolate trade and the work of the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre is bringing us closer to that reality. This is why the EU is happy to support it.”

So how does the Caribbean do it?

The plan is for “Innovative strategies, science and technology, farm management techniques, business models, and extension,” according to Virginia Sopyla, Associate Director of The World Cocoa Foundation.

“The International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre will play an important role in this process, and there are other positive signs of a growing momentum in this direction,” she said.

That includes the creation of a full-scale fine cocoa innovation centre by 2017.

“It will house a modern model pilot cocoa orchard, a fine chocolate and couverture factory, teaching theatres, incubators, a restaurant kitchen and labs and a fine cocoa museum and visitor centre. For the first time ever, an innovation centre will integrate agriculture, food processing, research and commercialization for a single food crop – cocoa,” according to a release.

“The IFCIC will form the nerve centre to foster innovations along the entire cocoa value chain by the local private sector and attract innovative foreign investment into Trinidad and Tobago, and similarly in the rest of the Caribbean,” said Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, director of the CRC. “Singapore did this with its telecommunication sector, Thailand its ornamental sector and Taiwan with it electronics sector. Can we do this with our cocoa sector? Yes, I think we can.”

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