OU R C OMP E TITIVE ADVANTAG E
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.
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