MONTEGO BAY — Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has announced that divestment of the commercial aspects of the Cocoa Industry Board is well underway.
Dr. Tufton said that the divestment was essential for the success of the industry, and for the benefit of small rural farmers and the Jamaican economy.
“Cocoa, like coffee, is a pervasive ingredient in the economy, food chain and lifestyle of western countries, and is moving eastwards. In recent years, we have also witnessed the rapid growth in demand for these food products in eastern countries, such as China and India,” Dr. Tufton added.
He was delivering the main address on day two of the 2nd Caribbean Fine Cocoa Conference and Chocolate Expo, at the Ritz Carlton Golf and Spa, Rose Hall, Montego Bay on Friday September 16.
He pointed out that the cocoa sector offered exciting prospects for industry, investment and commerce, and that he was pleased to see among the exhibitors, several entrepreneurs who have taken the industrial and commercial initiatives to produce a variety of food and drink items.
“The world market for cocoa beans is approximately 3.5 million metric tones, valued at approximately $10.5 billion. Fine and flavoured cocoa, which commands a premium price of more than 25 per cent over the price of bulk cocoa beans, is 5-8 per cent of this market in metric tonnes,” Dr. Tufton said.
He noted that it is estimated that Jamaica could sell 1,500 metric tonnes of Fine and Flavoured beans.
‘There is therefore massive scope for output increases … and also vast implications for job growth. Jamaica currently has approximately 6,000 cocoa farmers, compared to the 1960s and 70s when we had nearly 11,000 farmers,” the Minister observed.
Dr. Tufton also noted that, with about three million tourists coming to Jamaica each year and over 12 million visitors to the Caribbean, annually, there was a ready-made market for chocolate products “right on our doorstep”.
“The quality raw material inputs, the processing know-how, the entrepreneurs, the end products on display, indicate a promising future for cocoa and all the products that can be derived from it,” the Minister stated.
“I urge the Cocoa Industry Board to partner with existing research facilities, to identify new products, build the business profile and sell these to investors,” Dr. Tufton concluded.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter