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OU R C OMP E TITIVE ADVANTAG E

Fine Cocoa:

Strengthening the Sector on the Supply Side through Innovation By Vernon Barrett

The legendary fine cocoa sector of the

world’s total production, prior to the discovery

paste, cocoa liquor, chocolate, etc. was done in

Caribbean is entering a period of renaissance.

of crude oil and the establishment of the twin-

these foreign countries.

The transformation has been triggered by the

island republic’s petrochemical industry. Over

application of innovative industry models that

30,000 tonnes of cocoa beans were exported at

As we entered the 21st Century, the Caribbean

are more relevant to the prevailing social and

the peak of production in the 1920s. Although

still had cocoa trees and the cocoa pods from

economic context in Caribbean countries. This

the sector went into decline in the post-war

which the ubiquitous chocolate food and

sector’s transition is facilitating investors and

period, to this day there are still several large

drink ingredients of Western diets are derived.

stakeholders to capitalise on the many attractive

cocoa estates (over 500 acres in size) which

Although much was changing and continues to

opportunities in fine cocoa, driven by the increased

are exclusively growing the single cocoa crop,

evolve – in terms of the downstream chocolate

global consumer demand for these quality beans

primarily for export of the beans.

production worldwide and global consumption

and their diverse consumer derivatives.

54

trend towards dark chocolate, health drinks, However, across the wider Caribbean there

super foods, mini “bean-to-bar” processing

Fine cocoa beans have been grown, dried and

are, in reality, very few cocoa farmers. Rather

facilities, etc.– the source of cocoa growing

fermented in the Caribbean for well over 300

there are many subsistence farmers who grow

in the Caribbean fields had hardly changed.

years. When the crop was first established by

cocoa as one of several crops and their acreages

Yet, beyond the rural communities and

the colonial powers, using cocoa plants from

are, individually, fairly small. The traditional

cocoa fields, most Caribbean countries have

South and Central America, regional countries

construct of the cocoa sector was such that these

developed in many aspects with the emergence

were in an altogether different dispensation.

small farmers could only sell their fresh wet cocoa

of large metropolitan cities. Even the smaller

Those countries, with their cheap labour and

beans to a government-controlled centralised

islands have economically important tourist

land, were producing raw materials (dried cocoa

processing facility where it was purchased at a

resort towns. Urban migration appears to

beans) as inputs for value-added processing in the

fairly fixed price, then fermented and dried. The

conflict with rural economic development.

metropolitan countries where the quality of the

same government entity (usually designated as

In these developing countries, the economics

product was held in high regard.

the country’s Cocoa Board) also controlled the

of growing cocoa beans has radically changed

onward sale of these processed beans to buyers

since its inception, rendering the current

Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, was a cocoa

overseas – traders and/or end users. Most of the

cocoa industry model obsolete and in need of

dominated economy accounting for 20% of the

value-added processing into cocoa butter, cocoa

significant innovation.

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