October 2016

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The UWI Cocoa Research Centre (UWI CRC) has found a new recipe for success with the signing of a project agreement with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to support the development of successful private sector business models within the cocoa sector. Additionally, Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed mid-September, at the Office of the Campus Principal to launch collaborations between Belmont Estate in Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company to foster cooperation and provide technical support.

The IDB-funded project titled Improving Marketing and Production of Artisanal Cocoa from Trinidad and Tobago (IMPACTT) aims to improve the livelihoods for cocoa growers by integrating small farmers and community co-operative producers into the value chain for the supply of premium cocoa and cocoa products, facilitating access to high-value domestic and international markets. Pro-Vice Chancellor and Campus Principal of The UWI St. Augustine Campus, Professor Brian Copeland; Campus Bursar, Andrea Taylor-Hanna; Director of The UWI CRC, Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan and Vashtie Dookiesingh, Multilateral Investment Fund Senior Specialist for IDB Trinidad and Tobago co-signed the project agreement between the IDB and The UWI CRC.

In addition, Ashley Parasram, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company, signed an MOU with UWI CRC for the joint pursuit of sector development projects.

To support the transition from cocoa growers to chocolate makers, The UWI CRC also signed an MOU with Belmont Estate, Grenada, which will aid the estate’s development as a successful bean-to-bar producer, and establish a model for cocoa development in Grenada. Shadel Nyack Compton, owner and CEO of Belmont Estate Limited emphasised the significance of The UWI CRC’s scientific know-how and the agro-tourism model of Belmont Estate for the region. She noted that its tree-to-bar operation makes Belmont Estate unique, and differentiates it from the competition. “CRC can provide us with the benefits of research, science and technology for every step of the process from plant propagation to chocolate making and we intend to extend Belmont Estate's services to act as a platform to train farmers and processors, offer a resource centre for research, as a learning centre for children, and as a model to foster agri-business entrepreneurs in the region,” she said.

Commenting on the nature of the partnerships, Dookiesingh remarked that these agreements were made possible thanks to a synergistic approach with the IDB. “The combination of Ashley’s firm, CRC’s depth of experience and passion and the eco-tourism of Belmont Estate would aid both private and public development and help ensure that the high-grade cocoa beans would be produced to create the ‘champagne’ of chocolate.” She commended Campus Principal, Brian Copeland and The UWI for making this leap with respect to innovation. Professor Copeland acknowledged, saying “Part of the strategy is in fact to build that relationship with the private sector… it is key to moving forward”.

Also present at the signings were Caroline Alcock, Deputy British High Commissioner; Kavita Terri-Ann Maharaj from the IDB; Jay Kang, Chocolatier at Belmont Estate and Arvind Mahabirsingh, Operations Director at the Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company. From The UWI Cocoa Research Centre were International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre Project Manager, Karen Lee Lum and Research Fellow/Food Technologist, Darin Sukha. Other UWI representatives included Sharan Singh, Director of the Office of Institutional Advancement and Internationalisation and Debra Coryat-Patton, Campus Attorney.

The Cocoa Research Centre is a campus centre of The University of the West Indies (UWI). It is responsible for maintenance of the International Cocoa Genebank, Trinidad (ICGT) around which on-going research activities of characterisation, evaluation and utilisation are centred. The management of CRC is under the leadership of Director, Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan. Research activities include germplasm conservation, morphological and molecular characterisation of cocoa, screening of cocoa germplasm for resistance to diseases, cocoa germplasm enhancement (pre-breeding for desirable traits), and quality and flavour assessment. In addition to research, CRC offers training to visitors and facilities for scientists from other organisations.