I paid a visit to the Cocoa Reseach centre at UWI (University of the West Indies) today to try and identify my cocoa. I did not walk with a pod but just by pictures, it seems that it may be the hybrid 919- hhmmm-
The Cocoa Research Centre is an excellent facility and I plan to go back up with pod in hand to get some more genealogical data on my plant. What it was bred to achieve etc.
Thursday, March 29th 2007
My last three articles were mainly on this country's production of cocoa beans. In this article I shall discuss the possibility of a high quality chocolate industry based on our fine flavour cocoa.
A recent article in the UK Independent indicates the rapidly expanding market for dark or bitter chocolate (referred to in the article as "Black Gold"). In that article Trinidad and Grenada are mentioned, the former as providing cocoa for a manufacturer in France (Valrhona) and the latter as producing an up-market chocolate from cocoa grown in Grenada. The Grenada Chocolate Company is reported to be producing Organic Dark Chocolate using cocoa from a particular farm in that island. The chocolate is described as "deeply flavoured and lingeringly complex".
Dark or bitter chocolate is now all the rage in the United Kingdom and other developed countries since medical research has suggested a role for chocolate (acting through the presence of an anti-oxidant- possibly epicatechin) in lowering the risk of heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes. It has also been demonstrated that chocolate increases the flow of blood to the brain and this may assist in combating Alzheimer's disease. Perhaps the fact that we no longer have a cocoa drink in the morning ("cocoa-tea") may in part explain the currently high incidence of heart disease and diabetes.
Research should be undertaken locally to determine the efficacy (if any) of the use of cocoa in lowering the incidence of these killing diseases in this country. In the United Kingdom cocoa was a popular drink before coffee. Why do we not attempt to revive that custom by using our petroleum wealth to invest in cocoa houses in the UK?
Dark chocolates are now displacing milk chocolates that have more sugar and less of the desired anti-oxidant. Dark chocolates are bitter to the taste hence the alternate designation (bitter chocolates). This is where the quality of the cocoa becomes important. Since the cocoa flavour is not masked by other ingredients the intrinsic flavour characteristics are tasted. Most expensive dark chocolates are made from fine flavour cocoa which is in short supply on the world market.
However, fine flavour cocoa beans are not traded as a separate commodity but are given a premium price that fluctuates with the world market price of ordinary cocoa. This can be addressed by selling our beans to individual manufacturers. However the big money is in the elite bitter chocolates manufactured from fine flavour cocoa.
The good news is that one of our most successful entrepreneurs, Mr Lawrence Duprey, executive chairman of CL Financial Limited, has entered into the production of cocoa on his own farms. Mr Duprey, made a presentation to the Faculty of Science and Agriculture in which he spoke of his interest in cocoa. UWI Today (12th March, 2006) reports that Mr Duprey, who owns a large acreage of cocoa estates and says he "has cocoa in his blood," processes Trinidad cocoa in France and exports it under the Tamana label as a super premium brand of chocolate to Japan.
It is to be hoped that Mr Duprey will expand his initial penetration into the international market and progress to manufacturing fine chocolates locally. The technology could be bought or developed locally by the relevant professionals. If a small entrepreneur manufacturing chocolate in Grenada can get on the world market with chocolates made from local fine flavour cocoa the myth that we should continue to export cocoa as a raw material or that we can only import non-fine flavour cocoa to manufacture run-of-the-mill milk chocolates has surely been exploded!
UWI Today further reports Mr Duprey as saying that Government had "failed to understand the value of its agricultural assets and the extent to which scientific developments had created the power to leverage these assets into new products and brands that could be successful in the global marketplace". This precisely expresses the views that I am attempted to convey in these five articles on cocoa (Express, March 1, 10, 17, 22 and 29).
This country has developed elite varieties (in the Ministry of Agriculture), the fermentation technology (developed by our cocoa farmers and the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture-now UWI) and is now pioneering research on flavour at the Cocoa Research Unit. With our industrial experience we could manufacture fine chocolates for which there is an expanding market.
The popularity of dark chocolates has increased the world demand for cocoa beans since more cocoa is needed to make this product than to make milk chocolates. In addition there is a world shortage of cocoa. This emphasises the short sightedness of our Government, for had there been action on advice given in 1992 and again in 2002 our crop could have been at least five times greater than it is today!
In view of Government's lack of interest our only hope for development of the industry may therefore lie in the initiative of private entrepreneurs such as Mr Duprey.