Chief: Resurgence of Cocoa as a commodity
July 27, 2010
Chief: Resurgence of Cocoa as a commodity

Cocoa could be the next cash crop for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as the country seeks to diversify its agricultural sector in the face of a dwindling banana industry.{{more}}

Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell said on Sunday, July 18, he was recommending to his New Democratic Party (NDP) and the government that they consider large scale cocoa cultivation here.

Sir James, a trained agronomist, told the NDP’s convention that cocoa currently fetches £2,400 per tonne, up £480 per tonnes in 1992, with projections that the price will increase to £3,000 per tonne.

“People want to drink more chocolate and eat more chocolate,” said Sir James who worked in the cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago when he was a student there.

He said cocoa was suitable to the soil in SVG, with certain varieties particularly resistant to disease while having high yield.

Sir James said the Mercedes variety, grows fast, begins producing after two year and produces “well” in three years time.

He said, that variety, if looked after well, can produce up to 3,000 tonnes per acre.

“If we get into this, we will look for the right variety and test it properly,” said Sir James.

The former prime minister, whose tenure lasted from1984 to 2000, said the major cocoa producing countries are Brazil, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.

He said that cocoa market requires no protection, adding that SVG already had what it needed in Europe to ship any cocoa it produces there.

Sir James’ view is supported by Chief Agricultural Officer Rueben Robertson who told SEARCHLIGHT that he believes the production of cocoa has a ‘significant potential for resurgence’ in the country.

Robertson, in an interview with Searchlight of Friday 23, July stated that the crop also has health benefits and has evidence of a market.

“Well, there is a resurgence of cocoa as a commodity and research shows a lot of countries are going back to cocoa,” he said.

He added that the Ministry of Agriculture is currently involved in the process of product diversification. “We have already started the process of reintroducing the element of cocoa,” Robertson said.

Robertson however stated that crops like cocoa are “highly labour intensive”, which is one of the major problems associated with their production. Producing a crop like cocoa on a large scale will require finding a large amount of workers, which Robertson said, is a problem in the agriculture sector.

He added that because the crop is labour intensive it will have to generate enough money to pay workers for it to be successful.(KXC/OS)