JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Battered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the island’s cocoa industry is slowly returning to a path of growth.
  • Jamaica produces cocoa beans and the CIB purchases the beans from farmers in the wet form, which is then put through a process called fermentation where it is dried under controlled conditions in preparations for export.
  • The Cocoa Industry Board is the sole marketing agent for Jamaican cocoa.

Battered by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the island’s cocoa industry is slowly returning to a path of growth.

Secretary Manager at the Cocoa Industry Board (CIB), Leroy Grey says the industry returned to positive growth during the 2013-2014 crop year with a 10 per cent increase.

He notes that production moved from 400 metric tonnes in 2013 to 440 metric tonnes in 2014.

He attributes the growth mainly to the Government’s post-Sandy injection of $13 million to assist farmers with fertilizer and rehabilitation.

“To ensure that the sector maintains a growth path, the CIB also gives sustained technical, advisory and extension services to farmers,” Mr. Grey tells JIS News.

He further states that under a project sponsored by the European Union (EU) two years ago, 250,000 seedlings were guaranteed to assist farmers.

However, that has been exceeded and to date, over 350,000 seedlings have been disbursed for rehabilitation and new planting, he says.

“We average 500 metric tonnes per year, earning some $225 million, unfortunately we are coming from a situation when we used to produce some 2500 metric tonnes 20 years ago,” he says. Mr. Grey also informs that an estimated 6000 registered farmers engage in cocoa farming across the country with 90 percent being small farmers, while adding that he wants this number to expand.

He explains that there are plans to get back into the school gardens through the 4-H Clubs, by providing technical and advisory support, so that the youth can get interested in planting cocoa.

Jamaica produces cocoa beans and the CIB purchases the beans from farmers in the wet form, which is then put through a process called fermentation where it is dried under controlled conditions in preparations for export. The parishes that are heavily involved in cocoa farming are Portland, St. Mary, St. Catherine, with Clarendon being the largest producer. These parishes enjoy conditions that are conducive to cocoa farming.

The plant takes five to seven years to come into full bearing, but has a life span of 30 years. It is one of the easiest crops to grow, reap and market.

The country is looking to create the foundation for a modern, viable cocoa industry that will flourish and attract new investors, enhance rural livelihoods, encourage self-employment and maximize the country’s opportunity to continue receiving a premium price for the product on the world market.

A signatory to the 17-member International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), Jamaica is one of eight countries recognized as a producer of fine or flavoured cocoa. Jamaican cocoa is of premium quality, which means that the locally grown crop is used as a spice to give flavour to cocoa that is produced in other parts of the world.

“We produce exclusive fine or flavoured cocoa, which is not returned to Jamaica in cocoa powder form but in premium chocolate,” Mr. Grey informs. Currently, the island exports 98 percent of its cocoa to Europe, Japan and the United State of America. Reports show that during the 2011-2012 crop years, the sector experienced an increase of 190 per cent growth in production which moved from 215 to 650 metric tonnes. However, 2012-2013 was negatively impacted by Hurricane Sandy, as a result there was a 49 percent decline in 2013. The sector was also adversely affected by drought.

The Cocoa Industry Board is the sole marketing agent for Jamaican cocoa. Processing normally takes place at the four fermentaries located in the parishes of Hanover, Clarendon, St. Mary and Kingston.