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Promises of support for cocoa farmers

Published: 
Saturday, September 29, 2018

Kyron Regis

Cocoa farmers have been demotivated when it comes to investing in production because the development process is long and they have no security of tenure, so their lands can be reclaimed and they can lose all of their crops.

These were among challenges facing the local industry highlighted by founder and head of UWI’s Cocoa Research Centre Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan at celebration of World Cocoa and Chocolate Day on Thursday evening.

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, who declared that “cocoa and chocolate are in good hands”, promised support to the industry with land tenure.

He said the primary challenge for the farmers face in getting land tenure is the inefficiency of the documentation process which is long and complicated. Rambharat said digitizing of the documents will improve the efficiency of the system.

The ministry has already digitized 1,800 of 30,000 files and when the process is completed farmers will get access cards with a unique barcode that they can use to find out the status of their land, he said.

Umaharan said the Cocoa Research Centre is hoping to establish partnerships with UWI, the private sector and Government for an International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre and factory. The idea, he said, is to create a space for collaboration to shorten, strengthen and make the value chain of chocolate creation more efficient so all stakeholders can get a fair share of return on investments.

Currently, farmers get only five percent of the profits from cocoa production.

“The value chain is very long and convoluted,” Umaharan said.

It is a seven step process the entails the farmer selling the cocoa to a buying agent, who then sells it to a processor. Eventually, the processor sells the product to a marketing agent who would then sell it to an export broker. This broker moves it on to a grinder who finally sells it to a manufacturer.

“In this process the most money is made by the manufacturer and the retailer, and everyone else gets small shares,” Umaharan said.

He said if the talent and necessary infrastructure are developed in T&T, the value chain can be shortened, creating a scenario where farmers can receive 33 per cent to 35 per cent of the profits from their investment in cocoa.

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