The Cocoa Industry Board yesterday added several high yielding, disease-resistant, fine cocoa varieties to Jamaica’s stock under the RECREATE project that aims to renew commercial interest in cocoa farming. The European Union funded Re-Engineering the Cocoa Rural Economy through Agro-processing, Eco-Tourism and Entrepreneurship offers sustainable livelihoods for young people and targets the parishes of St. Catherine, Clarendon, St James, St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas.
The new cocoa varieties came via the world-renowned United Kingdom quarantine laboratories at Reading and are originally from Trinidad. The 18-month European Union funded project that began in November 2011 is the brainchild of Vernon “Patrick” Barrett, Executive Director of the Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum (CFCF), a non-profit organization servicing the Caribbean’s fine cocoa sector.
Mr. Barrett, who accompanied the cocoa materials from the UK, says the project’s objectives are to help revive the dying agricultural sub-sector with initiatives and innovations he originally recommended to the CIB in 2009.
“I recognised then that the issues and challenges facing the cocoa sector were not insurmountable given the enthusiasm of many small farmers for the crop and CIB’s willingness to explore new approaches,” says Barrett. So he developed a strategy to revive Jamaican cocoa and designed the first project for the CIB titled “Sustainable Entrepreneurial Farming through the revitalisation of the Cocoa Sector and Cocoa Board.”
“Productivity in the sector was extremely low,” Barrett explains. “Many cocoa trees were not being tended to or pruned so their yields were low. Rural labour was hard to find and small farmers faced low prices for their crop. The project immediately introduced mechanised tools and specialised labour roles in the sector, bringing valuable productivity gains and improved efficiencies in farm operations.”
Twenty months after the first project started, CIB eagerly reported the highest increase in cocoa production’s recent history. Pruning of approximately 2,000 acres in the Eastern parishes brought huge gains in the yields off these cocoa trees.
Technology has revolutionised what was once conventional agriculture, according to Barrett. The project simultaneously introduced several modern technologies: Geographical Positioning System (GPS) technology (with the support of Mona GeoInformatix); electronic databases; and G4 telecommunication technology (with tDigicel’s support), among others.
RECEATE advances Barrett’s and the CIB’s solutions in a new approach to again multiply the productivity gains in cocoa. “Now we are going to propagate the use of high-yielding cocoa varieties by using super “Mother” trees locally and by importing modern scientifically produced varieties – all of the fine cocoa variety types for which Jamaica is famous,” says Barrett. “We are going to re-introduce cocoa into appropriate parishes of Western Jamaica and we are going to encourage denser planting out of the crop where it is feasible.”
Importing these modern cocoa varieties via the UK is the next step in this transformation of the sector, according to Barrett, and the project will market and sell grafted cocoa crops of a higher economic value to interested cocoa farmers. “This way we will get cocoa tree yield productivities up by another order of magnitude and successfully continue the revival of this sector,” he promises.
These developments are expected to give farmers a sustainable living, earning more than they currently do. Adequate cocoa bean volumes are also expected to foster value-added for the industry, another key component of Barrett’s strategy.
Grafting of new cocoa trees will start immediately and new cocoa grafted plants will become available for purchase from the CIB from September 2012. Persons interested in acquiring these trees for expanding their existing cocoa farms or getting into cocoa farming for the first time may contact the Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum (www.caribbeanfinecocoaforum.org) or the CIB.
For more information please contact Ms Kaywana Henry at +1 876 276 7659 or email her at
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