As Trinidad and Tobago prepares to have its status as a producer of fine flavoured cocoa evaluated by an international cocoa committee next year, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has urged farmers and processors to continue their investment in the industry.
Rambharat was addressing the opening ceremony of a two-day exhibition in celebration of World Cocoa and Chocolate Day hosted by the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, St Augustine on Friday. “We must be prepared to defend our fine flavour cocoa producing status,” Rambharat said. “Next year the fine flavour status that we enjoy is going to be evaluated, and requires a lot of preparation and focus if we are to preserve our status as a fine cocoa exporter.”
“The most important investment that we are going to make in relation to cocoa, in the next six months, is to make sure that when we face that panel (we can) present (our case) in defense of the status of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
The minister said the favourable ranking was due to the “dint of hard work and love” of the farmers, the Cocoa Research Centre and the Cocoa Development Company.
At the last meeting of the International Cocoa Organisation Ad Hoc Panel on Fine or Flavour Cocoa in September 2015, 100 per cent of TT’s total exports of cocoa was classified as “fine and flavour cocoa”. Twenty three countries were evaluated by the committee.
Rambharat was pleased by the attendance of cocoa farmers, producers and processors at the exhibition and commended Duane Dove, of Tobago Cocoa Estates Ltd, for his recent awards for the Laura milk bar made from the finest trinitario beans which won gold in the semi-final round of the International Chocolate Awards.
He observed the Rio Claro Demonstration Station and the San Juan Estate in Gran Couva were adjudged to be among the 50 best bean samples in the world at the 2017 Salon du Chocolat.
Rambharat also cited the Montserrat Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society Ltd as a model for success in agricultural activity saying they “work with a plan, they are well organised, they are well resourced, they have audited accounts.”
He observed the cooperative has also received the Rainforest Alliance Certification, an international standard, for their sustainable agricultural practices.
Rambharat also noted TT had to invest in the “protection of our beautiful products – including cocoa and hot peppers – both the germplasm and the name”, referring to the research on the varieties.
UWI principal Professor Brian Copeland, in his remarks, observed TT was a world leader in cocoa research as he referenced the cocoa gene bank managed by the Cocoa Research Centre. He also noted it may be possible to craft more climate resilient cocoa varieties for the region in light of the recent devastating hurricanes which destroyed many crops and vegetation.