News Releases

International Innovation Centre Launched to Advance the Caribbean Fine Cocoa Industry

For Release Upon Receipt - March 26, 2015


Regional Headquarters, Jamaica ––The Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) at The University of the West Indies has embarked on a three-year project that will transform the fine cocoa sector across the Caribbean region, ensuring the sustainability of Caribbean cocoa and pioneering a model for regional food crop security. Dubbed the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre (IFCIC), the project was conceptualised by the CRC and its partners, Newer Worlds, Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, Cocoa Industry Board of Jamaica and funded by a €2 million grant from the European Union under the ACP Science and Technology Programme II. The launch of the IFCIC was the highlight of a two-day conference hosted by the CRC on March 23rd and 24th, 2015.

More than 125 local and regional cocoa stakeholders attended the conference which took place the Ortinola Great House – a former cocoa estate in St. Joseph, Trinidad. The event also attracted stakeholders from international chocolate companies and other organisations such as Casa Luker from Colombia, Mars Chocolate and Mondelēz International from the US, and the Cocoa Research Association and Association of Chocolate, Biscuit and Confectionery Industries, both from Europe.  Themed Seeding Innovations along the Cocoa Value Chain, day one featured presentations on the ongoing applied research that focuses on creating innovations in production, processing, manufacturing and marketing in the cocoa industry. On the second day, the agenda spotlighted the fine flavour cocoa industry and the challenges and opportunities it faces. More importantly however, on both days, the conference showcased how this new innovation centre could facilitate the development of the industry through science and innovation, and providing support in terms of apprenticeship training and provision of technology and business services. 

The cocoa industry is an almost 100 billion dollar industry, poised to grow by another 20% over the next decade.  According to World Cocoa Foundation between 40-50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihood. While most of the cocoa in the global market is traded as ‘bulk cocoa’,  there is a small but growing segment of the market referred to as ‘fine’ or ‘flavour cocoa’ which fetches a significant premium often three to four-fold of that of bulk cocoa. Many countries in the Caribbean are regarded as exclusive fine cocoa producers; which provides an opportunity to build a niche high value cocoa industry. The IFCIC is envisioned as a triple helix of university-industry-government relationships that could harness these comparative advantages as well as innovations to develop the Caribbean’s fine cocoa industry.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, Ms Kathrin Renner, International Cooperation Officer of the Delegation of the European Union to Trinidad and Tobago said, “The Caribbean is held in high regard as a cocoa-producing region.” She added, “I think we would all agree that the Caribbean region holds great potential to be a major player in the international fine cocoa and chocolate trade and the work of the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre is bringing us closer to that reality. This is why the EU is happy to support it”. 

Also at the opening ceremony was Associate Director of The World Cocoa Foundation, Ms Virginia Sopyla. She stated, “Innovative strategies, science and technology, farm management techniques, business models, and extension are all essential to the future of the cocoa sector. The International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre will play an important role in this process, and there are other positive signs of a growing momentum in this direction”.

Many aspects of the IFCIC are well underway; the conference and symposium for instance, was a key activity in building awareness of the project among the region’s stakeholders. It is the first of three planned annual conferences and symposiums, aimed at articulating the vision of the IFCIC project and contributing towards steering the cocoa sector to realise its full potential. A physical multi-purpose fine cocoa innovation centre is set for completion in 2017. It will house a modern model pilot cocoa orchard, a fine chocolate and couverture factory, teaching theatres, incubators, a restaurant kitchen and labs and a fine cocoa museum and visitor centre. For the first time ever, an innovation centre will integrate agriculture, food processing, research and commercialisation for a single food crop – cocoa.

In his speech, Director of the CRC, Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan explained, “The IFCIC will form the nerve centre to foster innovations along the entire cocoa value chain by the local private sector and attract innovative foreign investment into Trinidad and Tobago, and similarly in the rest of the Caribbean”. He added, “Singapore did this with its telecommunication sector, Thailand its ornamental sector and Taiwan with it electronics sector.  Can we do this with our cocoa sector?  Yes, I think we can”. 

UWI, St Augustine Campus Principal, Professor Clement Sankat in his remarks affirmed, “As Principal I am extremely pleased with this development, particularly at this juncture when our country and region are searching for diversification options”. He indicated that The IFCC is “a futuristic project that seeks to develop a niche cocoa market industry from production, processing, and product development. He believes this to be a ‘Nerve Centre’ “that will support cocoa development throughout this region. This centre is based on the ‘tripe helix’ model led by The UWI, but involves integrally the government and the private Sector.

Professor Sankat believes that value creation in this industry is very important for its survival and he thanked The EU and all the global chocolate manufacturers for their presence and support of the CRC. He was especially seeking their assistance for the maintenance and upkeep of the internationally known Cocao Gene Bank in St Helena. The Campus Principal lamented the decline in cocoa production locally and emphasized the need to reengineer our farms so that the use of mechanization can be maximized. He went on to challenge the CRC to ensure that its work continues to be very impacting.

Additional support for The IFCIC is being sought to from government and the private sector agencies. For more information on the project, please contact The Cocoa Research Centre at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus or email



About The UWI

Since its inception in 1948, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged, regional University with well over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest, most longstanding higher education provider in the Commonwealth Caribbean, with four campuses in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Open Campus. The UWI has faculty and students from more than 40 countries and collaborative links with 160 universities globally; it offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Food & Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology and Social Sciences. UWI’s seven priority focal areas are linked closely to the priorities identified by CARICOM and take into account such over-arching areas of concern to the region as environmental issues, health and wellness, gender equity and the critical importance of innovation. Website:

(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)


About the EU ACP Science and Technology Programme 

The ACP Science and Technology Programme (ACP S&T) is an ACP-EU co-operation programme in the field of science and technology. It is funded by the European Union and implemented by the ACP Secretariat.

The programme originates from the need for joint and systematic ACP-EU approaches in support of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). The thrust of the ACP-EU Science and Technology Programme II is based on the conviction that one of the requirements for an effective fight against poverty in the ACP countries is the application of knowledge gained from Science and Technology(S&T) in order to promote innovation and ultimately develop appropriate technologies, which could be effectively deployed within the context of local needs and resources. In line with the ACP Group of States' priorities and the EU Agenda for Change, the Programme prioritises Actions in the fields of Energy Access and Efficiency as well as Agriculture and Food Security. However, other sectors and/or interdisciplinary approaches are not excluded as long as the foreseen actions and activities are in line with the objectives of the programme.