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Chocolate 2013

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Chocolate confectionery (or sweets) is that smooth dark ready to melt in your mouth delicacy that most of us love. Chocolate tea is the warm morning drink that all our grandparents swallowed with a smile and licking their lips. Cocoa tea and milk chocolate from different companies are with us today, and chocolate ice-cream and chocolate cake are other delights in our tropical menu. Cocoa from the cacao plant is the mother of chocolate, and the number of products and by-products of cocoa is growing every year.{{more}} In some countries, the chocolate “cafe” is a meeting place where friends gather, relax with chocolate mug in hand and routinely have warm fellowship or deep discussion. And just like it is with Blue Mountain Coffee, Colombian coffee, Ethiopian and other brands of coffee, different brands of chocolate beverages too, have their customers and fans. Regrettably, we did miss the boat when the Geest Fruit Company and later WIBDECO refused to identify and brand our golden wellness windwards WINBANA product on the market. This time, however, we look forward to our own geographical cocoa identity with our “Cocoa youroma” or similar brand name securing its own high quality niche in the beverage, confectionery, wellness and other segments of the cocoa industry. Only smart strategic partnership can take us there and a regional approach will be helpful. In 2013, therefore, chocolate will feature on the ROUND TABLE menu and cocoa will command our attention, even as it will disturb our peace!

Mr Samuel Barnwell of Lowmans Windward has pioneered the revival of our SVG cocoa industry. Already the cocoa beans that he has planted are bearing cocoa pods after one year. He has developed a procedure to get his cocoa beans to sprout early and it is this kind of local agribusiness innovator and investor who should lead the SVG fine cocoa industry. He is also a marketing agent for cocoa exporters who trade in the Asian market. He is willing to cooperate with the new cocoa producers’ cooperative now coming together among farmers. This partnership is the local branch of the Vincentian cocoa investment sector that is blossoming in our country.

THE GRAB FOR “FINE COCOA”

“Fine and Flavour” cocoa is the high-quality, high priced cocoa product on the world market. It earns up to twice the price of “bulk cocoa”, but in quantity it is less than 10 per cent of the total world output. In the Caribbean fine cocoa is what we produce exclusively, though in small quantities. Ecuador in South America, however, produces about 2/3 of the world’s ‘fine cocoa’. That is where the Armajaro Trading Company has invested US $1 million in order to get its hands on cocoa gold – ‘fine cocoa’. SVG is the next hunting ground for this company. The Armajaro plan seems to be to control a large part of the fine cocoa output on the world market, to supplement its trade in bulk cocoa. In five years or so, it wants to have our farmers produce cocoa on 5,000 acres, which they will buy ‘wet’ for $1.00 a pound or less, according to the “cocoa group” estimates. Of course, in Ecuador, Armajaro cannot buy wet cocoa from farmers, it has to buy the fermented and dried beans! Somebody has to advocate a business to business relationship on the way forward in cocoa with Armajaro and its St Vincent cocoa company. Our parliamentarians don’t know how to do business with a foreign investor. They buckle and bow when he mentions money and employment and fatuous benefits. They do not realize that 5,000 acres of good farmland is worth 200 million dollars. Will Armajaro match that sum of money in its investments? That is why a cocoa producers’ cooperative is the major stakeholder in today’s revival of our cocoa industry. COPCO must provide leadership in the industry.

LET US BUILD COPCO

On one hand, Armajaro has the St Vincent cocoa company (SVCC) here to carry its programme. Farmers, therefore, need their own organisation to coordinate and advocate their interests. The Cocoa Producers’ Cooperative Society Ltd of St Vincent and the Grenadines (COPCO SVG) will bind farmers together to share in ownership, technology development, negotiation and income. One by one our farmers will bow, just like the government when the investors comes with cocoa plants, credit and promises. We forget that we too can grow cocoa plants, we too as a cooperative can secure credit, we too can buy technical skills from regional cocoa producers. We too are investors. In 2013, let us come together in COPCO.

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