‘Dancing the Cocoa’ – The Revival of a Sweet Investment Opportunity
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us now at (868)
· 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
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).
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.