A new partnership between the British Foreign Office and a start up is trying to reverse long decline in Trinidad’s cocoa industry by opening the country’s first factory and connecting it to luxury purchasers overseas. The industry had been considered non-viable for around 70 years, largely because it is dominated by smallholder farmers.
Results & Impact
Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company has opened the country's first cocoa processing facility after 70 years of decline. The factory employs eight full time staff, and aims to kick-start an industry which consists solely of smallhold farmers. The factory can produce up to 50 metric tonnes of cocoa each year; Trinidad annually produces 500 metric tonnes of cocoa
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company, InvesTT Trinidad & Tobago, the Export & Import Bank of Trinidad & Tobago and the Cocoa Research Centre at the University of the West Indies
Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company leveraged the British government's business connections to find overseas buyers like Harrods to boost sales of its products
Trinidad and Tobago
Cost & Value
Running since 2015
The plans originally met with scepticism because the industry has been non-viable for nearly 70 years. A solution was outlined in a two year study which demonstrated the project would be commercially feasible
A new partnership between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a start up in Trinidad is aiming to reverse 70 years of decline in the country’s cocoa industry by opening the first factory and selling a line of bespoke products to luxury buyers.
“There is a pressing need to reform the economics of the cocoa sector,” said Ashley Parasram, director of TTFCC, who has a 20-year background in environmental and sustainable projects. Trinidad is currently home to 1,000 cocoa producing smallholder farmers, who typically harvest cocoa on land of around one to five hectares in size. “The sector has been hugely under-developed and ignored. If the cocoa industry isn’t modernised and incentivised, we risk losing 450 years of both history and knowledge.”
Earlier this year, the Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company (TTFCC) announced the UK as a strategic market for its single estate chocolate. The project is a public-private partnership which links the government of Trinidad and Tobago, the UK Foreign Office, the investment promotion agency InvesTT Trinidad & Tobago and the Export & Import Bank of Trinidad & Tobago with the aim of rehabilitating cocoa production in the country. Other partners include the Cocoa Research Centre at the University of the West Indies.
One pillar of the partnership is the Foreign Office’s continuing support of the region on health and climate change, while ensuring there is a solid trade relationship. TTFCC has used the Foreign Office’s contacts to get in touch with Harrods and collaborate on a high-end range of cocoa products. The partnership has also helped the company reach out to Michelin-starred chefs in the UK to feature their cocoa products in their recipes. In the UK, TTFCC can currently be purchased in outlets of Artisan du Chocolat.
In 2015, TTFCC opened Trinidad’s first modern cocoa production facility situated within the 200 hectare La Reunion Cocoa Estate. The factory currently employs eight full time staff and can produce up to 50 metric tonnes of cocoa each year. Trinidad annually produces 500 metric tonnes of cocoa. The cocoa mass, couverture, cocoa powder and cocoa butter produced by TTFCC originate from high grade Trinitario beans which mark them as a luxury item.
Over 80% of the world’s cocoa currently comes from Africa, which makes the supply chain vulnerable to climate and environmental patterns. “We’re also not paying the farmers what they should be getting for their product,” added Parasram. “Coming from a development background, I can see how we have gone about this the wrong way. I think the pendulum is swinging back. People can now fund cocoa bonds which have a social benefit. They can use online tools more effectively. I have even seen crowd financing initiatives for farmers.”
(Photo: Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company)