KINGSTON — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, says the future for the cocoa industry remains bright, based on initiatives being undertaken by the Government and the high level of interest from overseas processors in the local brand.
“We are the finest flavour in the world and we have been having many enquiries from around the world from processors, who want the fine flavour,” Minister Montague told JIS News. “Based on the applications for licences for the processing and export of cocoa from our overseas partners, it is a glorious and bright day for cocoa,” he stated.
Minister Montague said the Government is committed to growing the industry, and has increased the price of cocoa at the farm gate by 23 per cent and is looking at promoting small scale, high-end production of the crop utilising technologies from India and the wider Caribbean.
He informed that a number of the co-operatives across the island have restarted, while there has been assistance from the development partners to revitalize the industry.
The Minister said the Cocoa Industry Board is also engaged with the Scientific Research Council (SRC) to develop and market high-end value-added products from cocoa.
Earlier this year, the CIB secured a $63 million grant from the European Union (EU) to undertake a capacity building project to benefit some 650 small cocoa farmers and maximize the export potential of the crop.
Under the two-year project, farmers will receive increased access to extension services and training in best practices, which is expected to resuscitate some 1,500 acres of cocoa fields and grow yields by 50 per cent.
“In going forward, we hope to raise the output this year by about 500 metric tonnes…we have seen an increase. The farmer now will be seeing returns from the cocoa, and it is all part of the Government’s effort to re-engage this industry,” Minister Montague stated.
The Cocoa Industry Board is the sole marketing agent for Jamaican cocoa. A significant portion of the beans processed is exported primarily to Europe, Japan and the United States. Processing normally takes place at the four fermentaries located in the parishes of Hanover, Clarendon, St. Mary and Kingston.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter