‘Dancing the Cocoa’ – The Revival of a Sweet Investment Opportunity

Posted by Investt


Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa heritage began when the Spaniards first planted the Criollo variety in Trinidad in 1525 which led to a booming cocoa trade in the 19th century when the country became the 3rd highest producer of cocoa in the world, after Venezuela and Ecuador. During this time, a hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero varieties was born in Trinidad – the Trinitario – which affords the country its award-winning proposition for fine/flavour cocoa.

Cocoa production rose and fell in the 20th century given competing commodities such as sugar and oil. Nowadays we don’t see workers drying cocoa beans or ‘dancing the cocoa’* in cocoa houses as they’re otherwise engaged in making a living in oil and gas industries. However, with world oil prices at their lowest, investment in Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa industry may once again become a sweet attraction in the 21st century.

This is the mantra of The University of the West Indies’ Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) which is delivering research and development initiatives to create the enabling environment for a revitalized cocoa industry and investment opportunities. Of major significance is the fact that the CRC is the custodian of The International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad which conserves the largest and most diverse collection of cacao** in one location – close to 2300 accessions (plant/seed samples) spread over approximately 90 acres of estate. This genebank virtually contains a treasury of the genes (including those of Forastero, Criollo, Trinitario and Refractario) that safeguard the livelihoods of farmers and investors worldwide for years to come.

The research being conducted at the CRC will be critical to decision makers in this industry. Thus, studies to mitigate the risk of cacao plant diseases and to discover the nutraceutical value of cocoa are supplemented by efforts to build and brand a value added cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago. The overall objective of their research is to ‘support estates, farmers’ associations, cooperatives and cocoa value added businesses in Trinidad and Tobago to be able to target their products to ultra niche markets.’ (excerpt from a presentation at the CRC Symposium, March 2017).

Initiatives such as the IMPACTT project (Improving Marketing Production of Artisanal Cocoa from T&T) will develop technology toolkits to help cocoa growers improve the quality of their yield and develop standards and certification. The 3-year programme is a public/private partnership with The Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company Ltd, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of West Indies.

Additionally, the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre, partially funded by the European Union and directed by the CRC will provide training, technology incubation, product development support, start-up support and market assistance to value added businesses to be able to take their products to the global markets. Featured at this centre of excellence will be a cocoa museum, a fine chocolate and couverture factory, a model pilot cocoa orchard, chocolate academy and business incubators.

There’s a huge potential for success in investing in cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago which derives itself from our rich legacy of cocoa cultivation. Leading the revitalization of the local cocoa industry is Diaspora investor, Ashley Parasram, who operates the The Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company (TTFCC)- a pioneering bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturing factory located just 5 minutes from the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad. The TTFCC, also a public/private partnership, uses state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to produce high quality chocolates which are offered to gourmet food markets around the world. In June 2017, Ashley expects to launch a co-branded gourmet chocolate with Harrods, a famous and exclusive department store in London which is not usually inclined to co-branding. It’s a big win for Ashley as well as for Trinidad and Tobago’s fine/flavour chocolate.

There’s an increasing global demand for cocoa and chocolate products. According to the World Cocoa Foundations, people around the world enjoy chocolate in thousands of different forms, consuming more than 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually. Numerous cocoa investment opportunities can be found in Trinidad and Tobago including the establishment of large-scale chocolate manufacturing plants using locally produced cocoa. Given the support in research and development from the Cocoa Research Centre, the potential also exists for the creation of patents and licenses for high value added premium cocoa and chocolate products.

For more information on investment opportunities in cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago, please contact InvesTT’s team at info@investt.co.tt or call us now at (868) 225-4688.


·        Bekele, F.L. (2004) The History of Cocoa Production in Trinidad and Tobago. The Cocoa Research Unit, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

*Workers at cocoa plantations dried cocoa beans on cocoa houses by walking on the beans. This is also known as "Dancing Cocoa". The process allows air to flow through the beans which allow them to dry evenly.

·         **Cacao – refers to the tree, the pods and the unfermented beans from the pods

·         Cocoa – refers to the seeds of the cacao tree that have been fermented and dried and to the manufactured product (the powder sold for drinking or food manufacturing purposes).

Some of the information in this article is derived from excerpts of presentations made during the Cocoa Research and Development Symposium held on Wednesday 15th March, 2017 at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.


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