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Cocoa consideration

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Cocoa in the Caribbean is making a slow comeback from a period of low production on old estates, and some problems with quality. Although we are facing a lingering economic slowdown in many regions, the international cocoa industry wants more and more fine Caribbean cocoa. We are just waking up to the fact that world demand for our cocoa is strong, but our supply is weak. Here is an overall report of the overall situation of cocoa, which the CTA (Technical Centre for Agricultural Cooperation) provided earlier this month.{{more}}

According to press reports, cocoa demand is declining in Europe, but rapidly growing in Asia. While cocoa grindings are falling in the EU and Switzerland, reflecting declining retail sales, consumption in India has increased threefold in seven years, while Chinese imports since Jan 2012 have risen by 101.8 per cent in comparison with the same period in 2011. The rise in Asian demand is more than offsetting the decline in European demand, creating a tight market situation.

Caribbean cocoa on the Asian market is not new. Already, the Mitsubishi company — yes, Japanese Mitsubishi — buys some of Grenada’s cocoa, and some of Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa goes to China. In fact, one innovative cocoa grower here, the Square Deal Company, has an arrangement to sell his cocoa through T&T to China. The market for quality Caribbean cocoa beans is wide open – in North America where the Jamaica Cocoa Farmers Association is selling to Hersheys; in Europe, where Armajaro Trading reports that Nestle is willing to buy our Vincy cocoa, and in Asia where the growing lower middle and upper classes are developing a taste for fine cocoa. Caribbean cocoa producers have to study the market situation closely and get our strategy right.

The sad truth is this: there is no Caribbean cocoa industry. Even within one Caribbean country e.g. Jamaica, government had to step back from the Cocoa Board’s stifling control of cocoa experts, and enable smaller growers to make their own export contact with a chocolate company. The Caribbean is bound to benefit if the cocoa interest in each country could reach out to each other in strategic consultation on technical and business, cooperate matters. The producers of sugar, rum, rice and banana set up a regional process when they had to deal with the new Europe and Britain. Cocoa is coming back and a regional cocoa collaboration beyond research in agronomy is an early and urgent step we need to take.

A COCOA REGION

Can we imagine and aim for in 2020 a Caribbean cocoa industry in a revised model of Brewster and Thomas’ Integration process (1967). Perhaps as O’Garro and Jones have suggested (2011), from the Caribbean, the world could be supplied with quality cocoa beans, with intermediate cocoa grindings, with chocolate confectionery, with cocoa cosmetics and health foods, with Hairouna blend and brand of chocolate in restaurants and chocolate “cafes”, and also with hospitality on cocoa farms, as visitors experience a nature friendly food and agriculture and community elevation of the spirit?

Already, in June this year, two regional government ministers, Roger Clarke of Jamaica and Vasant Bharath spoke speculatively about “value added activity” and “greater investments in the value chain” for the region’s divided cocoa sector. We in SVG, as we consider cocoa production as a farm activity, should open our eyes wider and invite ourselves to bring leadership to the region for launching a cocoa industry consultative process. Planting cocoa and processing the beans for sale is not a satisfying legacy for us to pass on to our children. We cannot remain so backward when we are hearing them talk about biotechnology, trade law, food engineering, and a new globalism. As cocoa is coming back, let us step forward to meet it boldly. A world, bigger than Europe and North America wants to meet us and our products. Let us study our head, look for strategic help, summon our children to join this new struggle and make Vincy cocoa a regional and world leader.

I wonder if Armajaro Trading wants to make a contribution to our cocoa future.

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