CDCTTL meets with Cocoa Farmers (Rio Claro)
‘The world of cocoa has changed’ was the mantra of both speakers and cocoa farmers at a Stakeholder Session, hosted by the Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (CDCTTL), on Monday 29thAugust, 2016 at the St Therese RC Primary School, Rio Claro. Speaking to some one hundred (100) stakeholders in the cocoa industry, Mr. Winston Rudder, Chairman of CDCTTL commenced the Session with the words ‘I express gratitude to all you farmers who have come out to hear what we have to say about cocoa and cocoa farming in Nariva/Mayaro’; however CDC cannot do ‘anything alone’.
He outlined the specific responsibilities of the Company, advising that since taking up office in April this year, the Board of Directors has met with buyers, fermentary operators, and Cooperatives so as to work out the real issues. Having done this, the Board announced that they are committed to ensuring that ‘for the next crop,all cocoa beans offered for purchase by farmers in T&T willbe purchased!’ Further, that CDC will inform the farmer of who are the persons/agents that are buying cocoa.
This announcement was met with excitement by all gathered; and they sought to highlight the further assistance that is required of CDCTTL to get them re-energized in the sector. These included a reliable supply of labour, the drying process/method used; adequate drying facilities; price; storage, praedial larceny concerns, among others.
Mr. Leroy Chrysostom, farmer noted that ‘the labour issue is a real issue. There is work to be done! This labour pool is required since yesterday. Get the labour moving and you will get the cocoa going’.
In his Opening words, CDCTTL’s Chairman noted that though Trinidad and Tobago has a world renowned reputation of producing fine or flavor cocoa, our quantities have decreased over the years and this thus leads to a need for the support, assistance and intervention of CDCTTL.
Locally, a trending issue is that of young entrepreneurs in converting local high quality cocoa into local high quality chocolate (75%/80%). The vision is limitless – not just exporting cocoa beans abroad; not limiting ourselves to the production of chocolates – there are the value added products for the pharmaceutical industry (soaps, creams, etc.); gourmet cocoa cuisine, using the cocoa pods for production of handicrafts. This, as Ms. Carol Noel said ‘I am here to listen and learn. What is in it for us? We are land owners and want to invest’.
CDCTTL’s Director, Mr. Jensen Alexander called on the farmers like himself to encourage their children and the younger generation to get into the sector. He said ‘the transformation has to begin with us! We have to change the mindset of our young persons’.
So as to have an improved negotiating position for the purchase of their cocoa beans, CDCTTL Chairman encouraged the farmers to get together in Cooperatives. A call that was echoed by Mr. Sarabjit, President of the Rio Claro Cocoa and Coffee Marketing Cooperative.
The closing words were expressed by Mrs. Jacqueline Rawlins, CDCTTL’s Director ‘this Board has been set up to remove all the screws which inhibits the production of cocoa locally. Over time, we will do all that is necessary for the development of the sector to ensure that the revitalization and modernization of this industry take place.’
Part of the proceedings included a presentation to Mr. Harryman Chattergoon of the Tabaquite Fermentary who had the privilege and honour of being listed among the top 50 quality cocoa producers at the annual Excellence Cocoa Awards in Paris, France.
If the feedback from the stakeholders at this Rio Claro meeting is any indication, citizens can rest assured that Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa and its international cocoa reputation is in good hands for indeed, there are better times ahead.
Other CDCTTL Directors present included Mr. Kamaldeo Maharaj, Mr. Glen Beckles and Mr. Fitz Clarence Waldropt. This session represented the first in a series of five planned for month, which will see CDCTTL going to farmers in the areas of Point Fortin; Arima, Central and Sangre Grande.