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‘People key in reviving T&T cocoa industry’
Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath says people’s participation is critical in resuscitating this country’s cocoa industry. He said the People’s Partnership Government will therefore encourage anyone who wants to take the opportunity to get involved in cocoa production to help increase this country’s export capacity with a suit of incentives. “There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of effort on the part of many people in the sector. This is a sector that has been neglected like many other sectors in the agriculture industry for many, many years. “There was a time when T&T exported 35,000 tons of cocoa per annum. Today, we are down to about 600 tons. That gives you an indication about the demise of the industry; something that we have been talking about for the last 12 months and something that we are looking to resuscitate,” Bharath said.
The Minister spoke to Sunday Guardian at yesterday’s chocolate tasting seminar hosted by Delft Cocoa Plantations Ltd, held at the T&T Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), Chaguaramas. Belgium’s world chocolate ambassador Chef Bart Van Cauwenberghe presented an assortment of chocolates produced from local cocoa and as well as a savoury blend of fruits. The Food Production Ministry along with the Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute, TTHTI and the Tourism Development Company’s Convention were sponsors of the event.
Bharath stated his satisfaction with the products offered and the information shared with attendees. He said: “This is something that was done in collaboration with Belgian chef who is world renowned for making chocolate and clearly, when you can get people of this stature in a programme like this it gives a lot of encouragement for those who attend seminars, to give them an indication that the market is not just a local one but its an international market.” Bharath expressed hope that Government’s incentive programmes complemented by the unveiling of model cocoa farms could improve the techniques used to grow this crop.
He said the Ministry had already begun clearing a lot of the estates under its ambit for cocoa cultivation, about 180 acres so far, that belong to the Government. “My first priority in the first 12 months of office was the issue of food security. “Cocoa is the second tier; cocoa and coffee and pineapples and so on. A strategy has already been worked out and it will come at the tail-end of our one-year plan, detailing our incentive programme in terms of what we intend to do for the cocoa industry,” Bharath said.