Revitalizing Cocoa - InvesTT and EU Delegation bring stakeholders together

Revitalizing Cocoa - InvesTT and EU Delegation bring stakeholders together

Friday 27th May, 2022: “InvesTT can curate cocoa investment interests, identify the stage of interest whether it’s partnering with farmers to increase cocoa production, purchasing defunct cocoa estates or bean to bar production and bring the relevant stakeholders together to determine the best facilitation of those interests.”  These were the comments of Sekou Alleyne, President InvesTT, during the second episode of the Trinitario Cocoa Webinar on Wednesday 25th May.

Among the distinguished speakers were Senator the Honourable Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry (via recorded statement) and Senator the Honourable Avinash Singh, Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF). Minister Singh endorsed the initiative, sharing the Ministry's vision and strategies on the revitalisation of the cocoa industry and the many agricultural and agro-processing incentives available to farmers and entrepreneurs within the sector. He outlined the success of initiatives already undertaken by MALF in the pursuit of cocoa excellence and innovation and encouraged closer collaboration between the Cocoa Development Company, InvesTT and other supporting agencies to “develop and extract the full potential of this unique cocoa sector.”

Trinidad and Tobago has more than one unique competitive advantage for EU demand.

H.E. Peter Cavendish, Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Trinidad and Tobago, stated, “Apart from its world-class Trinitario cocoa, Trinidad and Tobago has another distinct competitive advantage for sale of cocoa and chocolate products into the EU.  The EU’s 2021 Regulation on deforestation-free products prohibits trade into the EU market of any product that contributes to the destruction of rainforests.  In Trinidad and Tobago, however, cocoa production actually favours reforestation.  This fact will create tremendous opportunity for growth of the industry, by promoting the consumption of cocoa as a ‘deforestation free’ product.”

Panel Discussion Highlights

Over 260 participants were privy to a wealth of first-hand expert information from members of two panel discussions which sought to position Trinidad and Tobago as an international centre of cocoa excellence and innovation. The first panel entitled Cocoa Excellence in Trinidad and Tobago featured industry experts such as Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, Director – Cocoa Research Centre, Tobias Schulze Frenking - Co-Founder & Director, Ubergreen and Hayden Ferreira – Chairman, CARIRI.

Addressing the concerns of organic cocoa production, Mr. Frenking provided insight into the development and progress made on the Organic Fine Cocoa and Chocolate Cluster Project which is administered under the IDB’s Compete Programme. He indicated that to date the project which aims to generate foreign exchange, diversify employment and promote women entrepreneurship has, within 1 and a half years, grown the cluster of private sector businesses to 14 and employs 152 persons across Trinidad & Tobago and St. Lucia. He explained that while there is great demand for the Trinitario chocolate because of its unique flavor and increasing demand for organic products, there is an imbalance in supply. 

In response, Mr. Alleyne expressed that the aim of e TecK’s Moruga Agro-Processing and Light Industrial Park is to address the need to link increased secondary cocoa processing with increased primary production. 

Trailblazing Women Entrepreneurs in the Cocoa Industry

The second panel - Trailblazing Women Entrepreneurs in the Cocoa Industry - featured local chocolatiers and business leaders, Isabel Brash – Chocolate Maker & Managing Director, Cocobel, Elizabeth ‘Lady’ Montano, Montanos’ Chocolate Company and Nikita Nath – Director & Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker, Ortinola Estates.

The session saw a healthy discussion on the challenges and use of innovation to succeed, along with a wealth of experience in the chocolate journey for these entrepreneurs. Asked what advice they would give to other female cocoa entrepreneurs Lady Montano said, “See yourself as Trinitario with an extra flavouring.” She also invited them to experience what happens “when Soca meets Cocoa”, reiterating the sentiment of a previous speaker that Trinidad and Tobago should be known for its chocolate almost as much as its carnival. Isabel Brash shared her own philosophy, “Don’t think of failure as bad. Every time you fail you learn and grow,” while Nikita Nath emphasized that a combination of good financial sense and a business plan is imperative to begin in cocoa.

The Trinitario Cocoa Webinar series which saw the first installment in February 2022 will end in September 2022 with the third installment.

Access webinar material and recordings for Episode 1 and 2 here