TTO | May 22, 2023

UWI pushing cocoa revival in Trinidad and Tobago

/ Our Today

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(from left to right) Peter Cavendish, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Delegation of the European Union; German Ambassador Ute Köni, Professor Indar Ramnarine, deputy principal of The UWI St. Augustine campus; Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, director of The UWI Cocoa Research Centre; Judith Brown from the School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona; Amel Baksh, acting director of research in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; and Winston Rudder, chairman of cocoa research advisory board. (Photo: Contributed)

The University of the West Indies (UWI) Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) at its St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago unveiled a transformative vision for making cocoa farming a prosperous business in the twin island Caribbean republic.

In a momentous revelation last week, director of the centre, Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan unveiled a transformative vision for reviving the cocoa business in Trinidad and Tobago. Addressing an enthralled audience at the CRC’s Annual research and development symposium (CARDS), held under the theme, ‘Improving cocoa productivity and quality while managing risks‘, Professor Umaharan outlined initiatives to revolutionise the cocoa sector.

Recognizing the unique socio-economic environments, risks, and aspirations that diversify our nation, Professor Umaharan emphasized the futility of a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

“Although T&T is a small country, we must acknowledge our diverse landscape and tailor our strategies accordingly. We must collaborate, fine-map cost drivers, comprehend risks and threats, and work in harmony to recommend bespoke varieties, technologies, best practices, and business models that pave the way for your success. Your triumph should serve as the measure of our achievement,” asserted Professor Umaharan.

Abandoned cocoa lands being revived

Drawing attention to the staggering 50,000 hectares of abandoned cocoa lands across the country, Professor Umaharan called for government and institutions to embrace a nuanced perspective. By comprehending the intricate interplay of risks, socio-economic factors, and community-level dynamics, stakeholders can forge a united front that propels cocoa farming into a thriving industry.

Symbolically, the CRC under the guidance of Professor Umaharan and his esteemed team, stands as a pillar of support, offering scientific and technological knowledge, certification, post-harvest support, chocolate-making expertise, breeding support, and disease screening.

Deputy principal of St. Augustine campus, Professor Indar Ramnarine underscored the significance of the CRC’s multifaceted contributions, articulating the need for a holistic approach that spans educational programmes, research, extension services, investments, and governmental policies.

This transformative journey, Ramnarine said necessitates a collaborative partnership between the government, research and development institutions, and the private sector. It calls for a shared strategy, with investment flowing into the reconfiguration of farms into modern and prosperous business entities.

The International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad (ICGT) is the source of genetic material for cacao breeding, cocoa liquor for chocolate making. (Photo: Facebook @cocoacentre)

“The research agenda for cocoa at the Ministry is developed with guidance and collaboration from the CRC, UWI to address major industry challenges,” declared Amel Baksh, Acting Director of Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. He delivered the feature address at the opening of the symposium on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Senator Kazim Hosein

Rehabilitation of the cocoa industry

According to him, “research projects are also financed through recurrent expenditure and the Public Sector Investment Programme through a project entitled Rehabilitation of the cocoa industry. The project seeks to provide innovative technologies which are geared towards increasing plant productivity and farmer income.” 

He expressed thanks to the CRC for organising the symposium to highlight research work in cocoa and sensitising stakeholders and the public. The symposium highlighted how the CRC aims to continue helping in the development and enablement of an investment environment while expanding branding strategies.  

Participants learnt more about how the CRC is currently working on developing a range of breeding tools, breeding populations to support cocoa breeding all while developing novel products and services and opportunities for commercialisation. Sponsors for the event included Angostura Cocoa Bitters, Eximbank, National Flour Mills and ANSA McAL Ltd.

Recently the St Augustine Campus staged a symbolic foundation laying for The UWI Chocolate Factory at the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre of the CRC, at the University Field Station in Mount Hope. The chocolate factory is one of many innovative projects underway in 2023 as the St. Augustine Campus joins its sister campuses around the region to celebrate The UWI’s 75th anniversary.


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