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Cocoa could be next cash crop in SVG – Hadley

Cocoa could be next cash crop in SVG – Hadley


Motivated by years of farming experience, managing director of the St Vincent Cocoa Company (SVCC) Andrew Hadley is confident that cocoa has the potential to be the next cash crop in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Hadley has been with SVCC since its inception in 2011 and with a family that has been farming in St Vincent since the 1860s. He has so far farmed banana, coconut, tropical flowers and principally, cocoa.

SEARCHLIGHT sat down with Hadley on Wednesday, September 14 and he disclosed that the aim of the SVCC is to try to re-establish the cocoa industry here. He said the Vincentian cocoa industry has been evolving for over 200 years and has evolved into a unique variety.{{more}}

According to him, St Vincent grows what is called “fine flavoured” cocoa, a high quality cocoa used in chocolates that are sold at premium price.

Unfortunately, in St Vincent, there is a limited amount of cocoa, because Vincentians had cut down cocoa trees to plant banana while it was still the cash crop.

“What we’ve been trying to do since 2011, is try to plant as much cocoa as possible, because without the cocoa trees you got no chocolate, you got no exports, you basically haven’t got an industry,” said Hadley.

The SVCC, which is a subsidiary to the St Vincent Chocolate Company, plans to launch their ‘Vincentian Chocolate’ bar, the first of its kind here, on Friday, September 23.

Hadley is currently embarking on a mission to make the chocolate bar 100 per cent Vincentian and so the SVCC has been encouraging farmers islandwide to get back into cocoa by supplying them with cocoa plants.

The SVCC manager told SEARCHLIGHT that the company has also been leasing lands to farmers and also buying lands from them, while offering encouragement to them plant cocoa across the island.

He said this initiative was taken because the younger people are not interested in farming, because it isn’t seen as a promising source of income.

“The expectation is that eventually we’re going to have a substantial amount of land planted in cocoa here in St Vincent, which means that we would have enough cocoa beans… that we could make large volumes of chocolate and we could also export large volumes of cocoa beans to the outside world,

“Which means that we are employing more people, which means that we are getting more foreign currency coming into St Vincent… so that’s what we see in the future.”

Hadley said the chocolate is made from locally grown cocoa beans, which are stemmed, fermented for seven to 10 days and then dried to about six per cent moisture level by the SVCC at their small factory at North Union.

According to him, the 72 per cent chocolate and 28 per cent sugar bar is healthier than other chocolates, because it has no artificial preservatives or added ingredients.

Excited, Hadley said he hopes that young persons would see making chocolate as a business opportunity, as currently the SVCC employs over 180 persons, specifically youths in rural areas where jobs are most needed.

“I think one of the biggest opportunity you can provide for young people is an opportunity for a job where he could be working for his own money,” he said.

The managing director noted that the only limiting factor is the lack of cocoa here.

He said there is a local target market for the chocolate, which he hopes to extend to the region, starting with Barbados and from there he would “see how far it could go.”

Hadley said that SVG is quite far off from being a “proper producer” and so the SVCC’s target is to plant 250 acres per year.

Additionally, the company aims to get 2,000 acres of cocoa so that the country can produce at least 200 to 300 tons.

Next Friday, the Vincentian chocolate would be available at all major supermarkets and also at a special display tent at Heritage Square, where there would be samples.

It would also be sold at EC$8.36 wholesale and the suggested retail, EC$12.50.

According to Hadley, the SVCC is trying to stick to the prices because they want all Vincentians to have access to the chocolate bar.

“I think that if people grab hold of the idea… and run with it, it could make a big, big difference; the cocoa price could double in the next 10 years,” he said.

During the first half of the 20th century, cocoa was regularly exported from St Vincent and the Grenadines until the banana industry came into pre-eminence during the 1970s.

However, about 10 years ago, the banana industry went into decline in SVG, which sparked the search for alternative crops for farmers with an improved sustainable competitive advantage.

Therefore, the SVCC was set up in 2011 by UK-based Armajaro Trading Company, after signing a Memorandum of Agreement with the Vincentian Government to revitalize the cocoa industry, in exchange for exclusive rights over the exports of cocoa beans for a period of 50 years.

However, in 2013, Armajaro was sold to Ecom Agrotrade Ltd, who decided in 2014 to discontinue the cocoa project, which cancelled the agreement between the Government and Armajaro.

In September that year, Hadley formed a consortium of investors to purchase SVCC from Ecom and effectively saved the project from closure.

Hadley, chair Harry Marriott and Ruth Moloney, a consultant, now direct the SVCC. (AS)