MINISTER of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, JC Hutchinson says Government is intensifying efforts to regain local prominence in the cocoa market, by the rehabilitating some 2,000 acres of production.
With grant assistance from the European Union and USAID, the country hopes to increase cocoa production by 400 tonnes by the end of the 2011/2012 crop, as existing cocoa fields are being extensively rehabilitated.
“The foundation of any industry has to be the expansion of primary production, to guarantee the kind of throughput required for efficient and profitable value added activity,” Hutchinson told the opening ceremony of the 2nd Caribbean Fine Cocoa Conference and Chocolate Expo, at the Ritz Carlton Golf and Spa Resort, Montego Bay on Thursday.
He argued that no value added industry can be profitable and sustainable at a production level of 213 metric tones per annum. Therefore, Government had to secure grant assistance from the European Union and USAID to increase production through the rehabilitation of existing fields.
“To support and sustain the expansion and production, the projects are also providing training of farmers and critical capacity building support for the fledging growers association, as we believe that the growers must be empowered to manage all aspects of the value chain,” Hutchinson explained.
The two-day conference brought together Caribbean growers, producers associations, Government agencies, cocoa processors, traders, exporters and manufacturers to share ideas and best practices.
Hutchinson said that the divestment of the cocoa industry will be aimed at creating a policy environment for private players to invest in all aspects of the value chain, and expand production of both the primary and value added products through the infusion of appropriate technology and capital.
“It is also our expectation that the new players will use the opportunity to diversify our export markets, thereby reducing the risk of dislocation, should there be undue turmoil in our only export market, Europe,” he pointed out.