Posted on

Cocoa on the block – Two

Share

During a discussion on the block, one of the men turned to me and said “All yo making joke with this cocoa industry, like you want to mash it up or what? All the time before Armajaro come, not one soul had a word to say about cocoa. Now that the Armajaro people bringing the cocoa industry here, all yo want to run them. Is right so things does mash up, right so!”{{more}}

A woman nodded her head in agreement with his point, and I believe other people could be thinking the same thing. That the revived cocoa industry in SVG is Armajaro owned. They started it, nobody else must touch it.

THEY CAME BEFORE ARMAJARO

It is true that Mr Debenham of Armajaro hit the headlines with the help of political leaders, lobbying and election gimmicks, but I know of 2 Vincentians who came before Armajaro with superior cocoa proposals. But let me clear up something here. You see, in tourism, an investor can come with a hotel project and set it up here in SVG and say: “Look this is my hotel, I will provide jobs in the hotel directly, and in the economy indirectly, when my business and my guests want to buy things and services. But you see the hotel, that is mine”.

However, when it comes to cocoa, at this time in SVG, an investor does not own an industry and just provides jobs and ‘transparent’ prices for our produce. To think of an Armajaro cocoa industry in SVG is to put limits and barriers on what Vincentian agriculture is about. Even in international investment in agriculture, people are talking about “inclusive agribusiness models”, including cooperatives – in which farmers have more voice, get more value and share in business equity after they have produced the crop. The FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations-fao.org) led a 2010 study looking into such agribusiness models, that respect the input of small farmers. In other words, cocoa is not a hotel. A company can’t just come, sign up and control. Especially when other actors are already in the business. Let me share with you a bit about Samuel Barnwell, and Professor Leonard O’Garro, 2 Vincentians with practical and conceptual projects for Vincy cocoa.

Right now Mr Barnwell of Lowmans Windward, an experienced business farmer, trader and agro processor, has several acres of cocoa cultivation on his farms in South Rivers and Orange Hill. He has ‘old’ cocoa stands, cocoa near one year old and cocoa still germinating in the earth. Barnwell is selecting seeds from heavy bearing trees and planting them out. He even removed his mango and soursop orchard to plant cocoa in their place, and he has given out plants to encourage other farmers to cultivate cocoa. Further to that, he already has a contract to sell his Vincy cocoa beans on the regional, International market. Mr Barnwell is a member of the cocoa group.

Professor O’Garro is an acclaimed biotechnology scientist and international business consultant. He presented to Agricultural officials here a concept of a Vincy cocoa product that is based on the qualities of Hairouna select cultivars, standing alongside other specialist cocoa brands from the region. Also before Armajaro, O’Garro and others have been doing scientific and investigative work on cocoa. They still continue their studies for a step by step elaboration of a Vincentian and regional cocoa production processing and marketing enterprise that can make its way in the expanding competitive food & beverage market. The 1st stage will be based on the present 300 or so acres of rehabilitated cocoa, yielding about 100 tons of beans. In my view, Messrs Barnwell and O’Garro came, not only before Armajaro, they came better than Armajaro.

CONTRADICTIONS OF ARMAJARO

Something strikes me here that I need to classify, because people think different things. I am not against investors from overseas. In fact, my interest in cocoa led me to associate with Armajaro as a possible farmer promoter, intending to cultivate a demonstration or trial plot of cocoa on my farm so as to assist the project as I saw it unfolding through consultation with the company. Then I realized that that consultation with Armajaro only took place under Armajaro terms. This trading company is a business dealer in cocoa, coffee and sugar. It is a member of the important international cocoa organizations like the ICCO (International Cocoa Organization) and the WCF (World Cocoa Foundation). In fact Mr Debenham is on the executive of ICCO. In the International cocoa bodies, they have committed themselves to promoting a “sustainable world cocoa economy”. The WCF emphasizes “putting cocoa farmers, their families and communities first to promote a healthy and thriving cocoa economy.” The ICCO speaks about “Remunerative prices and higher incomes for farmers are an essential element with the context of sustainability-“(see www.icco.org) but Ms Maloney of Armajaro declared that the company will buy cocoa from Vincentian farmers in its wet state, after it is picked from the tree and taken out of the pod. For farmers, the value chain, or income as far as Armajaro is concerned, stops under the cocoa tree. No money for fermentation, no money for drying. All of that is for Armajaro. As I may have stated before, the ICCO Cocoa Information Centre declares that it knows of no country where cocoa farmers sell wet beans to an international trader. No country, no farmer. So, who we be really? We continue our Cocoa Talk next week.

LAST NEWS