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Plans are being implemented to boost the annual production of cocoa, and to ensure its viability and sustainability within the agricultural sector.
Cocoa Industry Board (CIB) consultant, Neville Condappa, made the announcement while addressing a seminar to encourage investments in the sector, at Jamaica Trade and Invest’s (JTI) offices in Kingston on Thursday (September 17).
Mr. Condappa noted that cocoa is one of few export crops that has a ready and open market, and which “sells itself”. He was also optimistic that cocoa production will increase by about 15 per cent during this crop year, compared to last year’s production, adding that while it would not be a “big” increase, it would be significant.
“We are moving from approximately 400 to 440 tonnes, the end of this crop year, and we are hoping that within the next three (to) four years, we should move to beyond 2,400 tonnes of cocoa per year,” he projected.
“This is a crop that has tremendous possibilities, at the primary level, for boosting the foreign exchange earnings of Jamaica, income earning capacity at the local level and have multiplying effects throughout our communities,” he explained.
He said that, if concerted efforts are made to take care of the cocoa tree, to bring it to bear what is needed, it can be a viable, self sustaining crop.
The consultant also pointed out that 95 per cent of cocoa in Jamaica is grown by small farmers, and that the taste of local cocoa is as good as it has ever been, and attributed this to its well established infrastructure.
“We have the infrastructure to deal with over 3,000 tonnes of cocoa in Jamaica; we have the fermentaries and we have a group system and a well established network to deal with the collection and the payments for the cocoa beans,” he said.
“Cocoa has maintained its prized relationship on the market. Despite the recession, we have maintained relative price stability on the market and the price to the farmers has not been impacted negatively,” he pointed out.
Strategies which, he suggested, famers could implement include exploring other crops to plant at intervals when replanting cocoa.
“We need to look at farming systems. That is how we are going to teach our farmers to reorganise their farms to take them to a next level. So, instead of just planting coconuts, we are looking at planting ackee, planted at intervals in your cocoa fields, as well as other tree crops to supplement the income of the cocoa farmers,” he said.
Mr. Condappa noted that while cocoa is a subsistence crop, the aim is to move it to a sustainable crop, adding that models which are used in other countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, are being explored to boost the sector.
Discussions are also being held with PC banks to explore credit terms for farmers. He implored the farmers to keep the flavour, profile and quality of the products high in the market.
Mr. Condappa asserted that there is a new will within the sector to move forward, as the Government is focussing more on agriculture.
The seminar, held in collaboration with the JTI, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the CIB, sought to promote potential and business opportunities in the cocoa sector. It also explored strategies to improve performance.

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