News Releases

Cocoa Research & Innovation Workshop heightens call for long-term sustainability of the industry

For Release Upon Receipt - November 20, 2015

St. Augustine

“We have this grand history; we have this great reputation, but still we haven’t been able to forge a way forward.” Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries, shared this view as he delivered the feature address at the Cocoa Research and Innovation workshop held on November 17 at the University Inn and Conference Centre, located on the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).

The event, which was hosted by The UWI St. Augustine-based Cocoa Research Centre (CRC), attracted a cross-section of stakeholders in cocoa including researchers, farmers, entrepreneurs, chocolatiers, and technocrats. In 1921 this country produced 35,000 metric tonnes of cocoa, making it the fourth largest producer of cocoa in the world. Today, local production stands between 500 and 600 metric tonnes. Drawing a parallel between Trinidad and Tobago’s glory days of cocoa production and cricket, Senator Rambharat said, “Cocoa and West Indies cricket have some similarities. There is so much history in cricket; and there is so much history in cocoa.” The Senator said, as a country, we have some decisions to make. “Do we go for the T20, or do we go for the long game?” When it comes to cricket, he expressed his preference for the long version of the game. “What this country needs is a cocoa sector that will last for some time.”

While he pledged his ministry’s commitment to creating the “link and synergy,” Senator Rambharat also told participants, “The plan for cocoa must come from the groups that are represented in this room.” He even had some words for the St. Augustine Campus as he reflected on the workshop’s theme: “From Lab to Farm to Product.” “The University has been very good in the lab. We need to move from the lab to production,” the Senator said. He closed with the admonition: “No more conferences. No more researching. We need to work. It’s time to act,” he said.  

This call to action reverberated in the contributions of successive speakers and even participants. Dr Dapeng Zhang, representing the Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture, provided a global perspective. Cocoa, he said, has been growing by three per cent per year for the past hundred years. Seventy-two percent of the world’s cocoa is produced by West Africa, and chocolate consumption is growing by 12 percent per year in countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Mexico.

But like oil and gas, the cocoa industry is not immune to boom and bust cycles. In the case of cocoa, these cycles are influenced by blight, drought, climate, fungus, and pests like caterpillars. “We have to create new varieties with resistance,” Dr Zhang said. He called on participants to recognise the “huge amount” of untapped resources that await exploration and transformation.

One of the sponsors of the event certainly had no problems recognising these untapped resources. Dutch Ambassador, His Excellency Jules Bijl, said, “There’s always a market for good people who step into cocoa.” And the Netherlands would know. That country is the second largest player in world cocoa, processing half a billion tonnes, according to the Ambassador.

Bijl said the Netherlands is eager to cooperate with the cocoa sector in Trinidad and Tobago. “We are very interested to give a contribution to the diversification of the economy,” Bijl said. “We have a lot of knowledge. So there’s a lot we can talk upon and look upon. The cocoa that’s grown here in Trinidad and Tobago is of the best quality.” But “some extra” is needed, including addressing the labour shortage “one way or the other.”


 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.)