Cocoa plants begin to bear fruit
January 31, 2014

Cocoa plants begin to bear fruit

Fourteen months after the St Vincent and the Grenadines Cocoa Company began its cocoa industry revival here, pods are beginning to show on the new plants, and with them the countdown to harvest time.{{more}}

Speaking to Searchlight on Wednesday, general manager Andrew Hadley said new plants have grown between five and six feet tall and are bearing fruit.

“It’s very encouraging because now, people can actually see what we are talking about. We can take them to the fields and they can actually see what we are talking about,” Hadley said.

“From a small pod to actually harvesting the pod takes 6 months so around June or July, farmers will start to get their first income from cocoa.”

When the programme was started 14 months ago demonstration plots were planted all over the island. Currently, at least 128 acres of land are occupied with cocoa plants, which have begun to bear fruit.

To date, 75 farmers are involved in the project.

The company’s main goal is to revive the cocoa industry in St Vincent and the Grenadines and further diversify the agricultural sector.

“We won’t be completely focused on one crop like we have been for many years – banana. Cocoa…is a long term crop which means that when you plant cocoa, it lasts for at least 25 years. “With cocoa, you can plant hard wood trees to grow next to it, like mahogany, and when cocoa is growing for the first two years – trying to become established, you can plant short term crops like bananas, plantains, peppers, vegetables,” Hadley explained.

He noted that in this way, farmers are not dependant on one crop and they will have multiple strings of income coming from the fields.

A firm believer in cocoa’s potential, Hadley said it can open doors not only for the country’s export but for entrepreneurs as well, who wish to go the further step of processing cocoa to produce local value-added items such as cocoa powder, chocolate and cocoa sticks.

“That’s the value added part of it that we are trying to promote as well,” he said.

Making reference to last December’s natural disaster, Hadley pointed to a role for cocoa among future prevention measures.

“When you plant cocoa, what you are doing is planting a forest,” Hadley explained. “What a forest does is that it holds the land together. It stops soil erosion. Cocoa is a way of reestablishing forest which will help and control; when we get heavy rains like that again, it will help control it.”

He said the cocoa plantations can also help to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of ‘this gem of the Antilles’.

“It encourages insects, bird life, natural fauna and animals to come back into the forests,” he said.

Cocoa also seems to be worth its weight in gold and can be considered a cost effective crop, as it is not necessary to use chemicals.

“What pollinates cocoa flowers and these things are insects…so unlike bananas, you don’t go around spraying loads and loads of chemicals, polluting the water ways. It’s a much more ecological crop which protects society and the island,” Hadley said.

As part of the efforts to establish the cocoa industry, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Cocoa Company has an extensive training programme, where experts are brought in to train farmers in the crop production.

Additionally, the company develops planting material to distribute to farmers and currently has nurseries located in Orange Hill and Dixon.

Furthermore, persons interested in learning more about the programme can contact the company at its main office in Frenches at 453 2176. Extension offices of the company can also be found in several areas throughout the country.

Millions of dollars can be pumped into this country’s economy through the establishment of a cocoa industry. (BK)