Cocoa success dependent on farmers
June 18, 2013

Cocoa success dependent on farmers

Cocoa has a bright future in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but the success of the industry depends on the work put in by the farmers.{{more}}

Uriel Buitrago, agronomist with the Armajaro Company, in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, explained that many farmers are interested in the price paid for the commodity, but very little can be done, because the price is based on the international market.

“There are currently four million tons of cocoa on the world market, so the price is set to the international market,” Buitrago said.

Buitrago was at the time wrapping up a three-week training mission here and, according to him, there is money to be made in cocoa, but it depends on the extent of the initial work put in by all involved in the industry.

The agronomist has worked in Ecuador, where he trained over 22,000 people, including farmers and technical personnel.

This is Buitrago’s return trip to this country, after conducting a similar training workshop in January.

But while he says that the price for cocoa is based on the international market, Buitrago explained that cocoa is the type of crop that can generate income for long periods, because the trees can remain for up to 40, 60 or 100 years.

He said he had seen a marked difference in how farmers are conducting business on their farms during his return visit.

The assistance to the farmers at this stage is important he said, because whenever a new programme, particularly one like this, gets started, a lot of the strategy has to be used to change the minds of farmers.

“Farmers are quite resistant to change,” Buitrago said.

He explained that the strategy being used is referred to as “farmers’ field school,” which allows the farmers to learn the craft of cocoa production by hands on, practical experience.

One of the positives of using this system is that farmers get experience working together, Buitrago said.

“Farmers are just about the same everywhere; they are very independent – they hate working with another guy sometimes,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.

But once farmers realize that working in small groups is the way to go, they will do that, Buitrago continued.

“I have worked in other countries where I have seen that and that is why we need to do the work out in the fields.”

He said while getting farmers to work together is not something that will happen overnight, he is confident that it could be done.

“In Ecuador, there are associations now working and selling cocoa together, which is very difficult, because there is money involved – when money is involved, people get greedy and they think that other people will begin stealing,” Buitrago explained.(DD)