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Make cocoa the national fruit

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The National 4-H Council of T&T plans to lobby president Paula Mae-Weeks to make cocoa a national fruit. Natasha Lee, president of the national 4-H Council, and Leon Granger, CEO of the Cocoa Development Company of T&T Limited (CDCTTL) outlined reasons why this should happen. The duo spoke with T&T Guardian Media last Thursday when the CDCTTL hosted a training programme for the youths of the 4-H Council’s clubs at CDCTTL’s Chaguanas head offices.

Granger said the fine flavoured Trinitario variety of cocoa was born in T&T as an offspring of several local varieties that were brought to this country by the Amerindians from the Amazon and it was something that all nationals should be proud of. He added: “We have a national flower, we have national birds, but we don’t have a national fruit; and, it could bring about a certain level of patriotism for our cocoa.”

Granger said the CDCTTL wants more young people to get involved in all aspects of cocoa production especially in the generation of value added products that can earn substantial revenue. The CDCTTL has partnered with 4-H to train primary school students the art of handcrafting chocolate based beverage drinks and bars starting from fermented beans. Youths are also encouraged to ferment their own beans and look at creative ways of using the cocoa beans, pods and leaves.

Granger said the demand for labour by petro-chemical industries had taken away the labour required to make the cocoa industry viable. He suggested: “If we transform the industry into something where there is greater value added and we convert the raw beans to a product that would give more cash flow to the farmer then he can afford the wages that the labour is demanding.”

Granger said one kilogramme of cocoa beans sells at between $20 to $50 and that one kilo of beans, converted into chocolate, can earn $1,000. “What you are doing is adding value to the product,” said the CEO.

He said that value-added products include drinking chocolate, eating chocolate, cocoa butter, cocoa rums, cocoa wines, cocoa vinegar and paper. Granger said the CDCTTL has a strategic plan for cocoa for the next five years that would see the increase of production to allow T&T to do value added products and trade overseas.

Granger added that a National Cocoa Awards competition would be held later this year as a pre-cursor Le Salon du Chocolat which is held in Paris, France every two years. He said all cocoa farmers would be invited to participate and the winners from the 16 cocoa-producing clusters would be selected to give 48 finalists. They would then be judged for the top five winners who would go to France in February 2019.

Granger said Tobago has won in the past and would be invited to participate again.

Granger said cocoa has a special place in his heart and brings back fond childhood memories which many can attest to. He said: “I grew up drinking cocoa tea. When I get that smell, the aroma of cocoa tea, hot chocolate as we would call it, reminds me of my childhood day. The sweet memories, as they flow through my brain, develop in me that sense of connection and patriosm and the importance of what farmers do to bring a cocoa bean to the table.

“It is something we have lost over the years. We have become an instant society.

We have instant cocoa, instant coffee, instant starch. If we have to bring back that love for cocoa among our people the best place is to start with children. Since our cocoa is world famous it’s a good way to start.”

Lee said the National 4-H Council plans to write the president on making the cocoa a national fruit. She said 4-H is also interested in having the president become a patron of the club. Lee said T&T has a proud history of cocoa production and T&T was at one time the third largest producer in the world of cocoa.

Lee added that T&T’s fine flavour cocoa allows for young and upcoming entrepreneurs to enter into a wide field of products that can earn foreign exchange.

She said apart from the chocolate market, there is a high demand in the cosmetic market for cocoa products.

Lee said 4-H members would have to come up with two dishes with the cocoa bean and create a beverage on the day of the competition along with other products derived from cocoa. She said the competition would be held on different dates for the various education districts.


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