Already standing on a historic and enviable reputation for the world’s finest cocoa beans, T&T is being prepared for the emergence of a booming chocolate industry.
The University of the West Indies (UWI), together with the Cocoa Research Centre (CRC) yesterday hosted a foundation laying ceremony for the UWI Chocolate Factory, at Univeristy Field Station, Mount Hope.
According to CRC director Professor Pathmanathan Umaharan, this chocolate factory has been in the works for the past decade.
Umaharan said the factory is being built to materialise the CRC’s research, being the world’s oldest cocoa research institution and custodian to the world’s largest collection of cocoa (over 2,000 varieties).
“While we have a global reputation for the cocoa quality that we have, we need to build a reputation for our chocolate brands and other value-added products,” Umaharan said.
The 100 acres of farmland connected to the UWI Chocolate Factory is expected to be a beacon in rejuvenating abandoned old cocoa farms locally and regionally.
“This is one of the few agricultural industries that give us a comparative advantage in the global market and an opportunity to earn foreign exchange in a sustainable way,” he added.
The cocoa beans currently exported only captured 7.8 per cent of the total value chain, which the CRC is hoping to expand, along with creating employment opportunities and aiding in the development of the rural sector.
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said the Government has identified agriculture and agri-procressing as key non-energy sectors that can aid in sustaining socio-economic growth.
“There has already been an expansion in the export of raw and roasted cocoa beans, cocoa powder, chocolate in blocks, slabs, bars and cocoa butter from $125.3 million to $156.5 million from 2021-2022. So the growth is there,” Gopee-Scoon said.
EU Ambassador to T&T Peter Cavendish told Guardian Media that the EU firmly believes in the quality of cocoa beans from T&T and rated it as the best in the world.
This was proven through the EU’s contribution of €250 thousand to the CRC’s procurement of machinery to be used in the factory.
According to CRC, the chocolate factory will be a part of its International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre, which will house a museum of cocoa plants, a cocoa tourism centre, a restaurant, labs and a ‘chocolate academy’ that will host interactive short courses in chocolate making.
The construction of the chocolate factory is expected to be completed and commissioned in January 2024.