Micro-credit system soon available to cocoa farmers
June 21, 2013

Micro-credit system soon available to cocoa farmers

The St Vincent Cocoa Company is on the verge of making a micro-credit system available to potential cocoa farmers.{{more}}

Andrew Hadley, manager of the St Vincent Cocoa Company (SVCC), said that his company is pushing towards such a system and that the board of the company, in London and New York, have already given their approval.

In a recent interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Hadley explained that such a system is necessary in order to get farmers started in cocoa production.

“Because farmers need money to buy the plants – because they aren’t for free – they may need to clear the land and they need money for that; fertilizer, for at least the first year.

“So, we have gone ahead to try to get capital for farmers and there is a lot of money involved,” Hadley said.

The process also involves a fair amount of risk, he explained, so the directors were persuaded to put in a lot of capital.

“This is something that has never been done before, so it shows that we are committed to the project,” Hadley told SEARCHLIGHT.

He said farmers needing financial assistance should contact the SVCC office, after which a member of the extension staff will follow up with a visit to the field, where an assessment would be made.

The extension staff will then GPS the intended field, followed by all the other relevant steps, which include setting up a spreadsheet of the repayment plan, after which a contract will be signed.

“And then the money will be disbursed,” Hadley said.

He, however, cautioned farmers, saying that the intent was to distribute the money in short, periodic bursts.

“All the money will not be given up front,” the manager of the SVCC said, adding that the progress of the farm will be checked periodically.

The manager of the local cocoa company outlined other developments that have been ongoing in the emerging cocoa industry in the country.

One such development was a recent visit by a master grafter whose task was to train grafters here.

According to Hadley, local farmers can usually graft between 50 and 100 trees a day; however, this specialist grafter has the capability to do between 600 and 1,000 trees a day.

He said some progress has been made, however, and locals are now up to grafting between 300 and 400 trees a day.

Ten varieties of cocoa plants were brought in from Trinidad, Hadley said, and they are Imperial College Selection (ICS) varieties – budwood and graftwood.

These have been grafted on to some local specimens, he said, and once the grafting process is completed, three acres of land will be set aside and a gene bank set up.

“In the next five to ten years, rather than having to import, there are already such plants in this gene bank,” Hadley said.

“And we will also have a good gene pool in place…this is really the basis of what we are doing, because without that, there will not be good material to be used,” he explained.

He explained that the variety trees needed had to meet a flavour profile which the chocolate companies wanted.

The other quality according to Hadley, was that the trees needed to have a high yield.

“To make it profitable for farmers, you need trees with high yield,” he said.

And the third quality is that trees should be resistant to disease, the SVCC manager said. (DD)