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Production of cocoa globally is concentrated in the regions between 10° north and 10° south of the equator. The cacao plant (Theobroma cacao) is a native of South America and was first exported to Spain by Hernando Cortez in 1528. After several failed attempts to introduce the crop into the Caribbean, success was achieved at the end of the 17th century with the establishment of cocoa production in Curaçao, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Grenada. Increasing demand during the 19th century led to its introduction in Africa, including Principe, São Tomé, Fernando Po, Nigeria and Ghana. Production in Africa further expanded to Cameroon during the period 1925 to 1939.
According to this source, there are three broad types of cocoa FORASTERO and CRILLO plus TRINITARIO which is a hybrid of Forastero and Crillo. Within these types are several varieties.
FORASTERO, which now forms the greater part of all cocoa grown, is hardy and vigorous producing beans with the strongest flavour. AMELONADO is the Forastero variety most widely grown in West Africa and Brazil. It has a smooth yellow pod with 30 or more pale to deep purple beans.
CRILLO with its mild or weak chocolate flavour is grown in Indonesia, Central and South America. Crillo trees are not as hardy and they produce softer pods which are red in colour, containing 20-30 white, ivory or very pale purple beans.
TRINITARIO plants are not found in the wild as they are cultivated hybrids of the other two types. Trinitario cocoa trees are grown mainly in the Caribbean area but also in Cameroon and Papua New Guinea. The mostly hard pods are variable in colour and they contain 30 or more beans of variable colour but white beans are rare.
According to the study titled Competitiveness of Cocoa Production Systems in Trinidad and Tobago, world production is in excess of 3 million tonnes with exports of the beans and semi-processed products valued at more than US $5 billion. The bulk of output is concentrated in West Africa (approximately 70%), Asia (17%) and Central and South America (13%). Eight countries, of which 4 are in Africa, are responsible for 90% of world production. Although cocoa is largely produced in developing countries, it is mostly consumed in developed countries, with the USA, Germany, France and the UK being the leading markets. Cocoa therefore is a highly traded crop, important to the economic and rural development in developing countries, and heavily dependent on consumer preferences in developed countries.
The Caribbean is held in high regard as a cocoa-producing region because most countries produce a fine or aromatic (as opposed to bulk) cocoa. Fine flavour cocoa accounts for only 5% of world production and is concentrated in a few countries. The International Cocoa Agreement, 1993, recognizes 17 countries as producers of fine flavour cocoa. Of these, eight (8) are classified as exclusive producers. These eight (8) include seven countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Grenada although known for its nutmeg and spice production, also produces high quality organic cocoa which is processed into organic dark chocolate. According to a Traveller’s Guide Grenada article, official figures are that Grenada produces approximately 816.47 metric tons (1.8 million pounds) annually. It is also partnering with international chocolate making company L.A. Burdick to construct a modern plant as part of its efforts to improve cocoa production on the island. These and other initiatives have seen more than half of the island’s estimated 6,500 cocoa farmers returning to the fields.
Jamaica is also a traditional producer of cocoa and has an official Cocoa Industry Board which markets locally produced cocoa internationally. The recent agreement between the Jamaica Cocoa Farmers Association (JCFA) and the American chocolate producing company Hershey for the supply of cocoa will not only provide markets for locally produced cocoa but also provide technical assistance to improve production. According to a Gleaner newspapers article, the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries estimates that there is a guaranteed market for at least 1,500 tonnes annually but in the last five years, the highest level of production was 768 tonnes in 2007.
Haiti is also a major producer of cocoa. According to the USAID Market Chain Enhancement Project, the cocoa value chain is supported by approximately 20,000 micro producers. In 2008, the total national production was estimated at 4,450 metric tons with exports reaching approximately 3,800 metric tons primarily to two key exporters, Novella and Wiener.
These and other developments in the major cocoa producing nations of CARICOM are occurring after the industry, which was once vibrant, experienced more than two decades of depression due mainly to problems with pricing and disease. Additionally, during the 1970s, the collapse in prices saw many growers switching from cocoa to bananas. Pressures on other traditional export crops such as sugar which is faced with reduction of price within the European Union and banana which is facing increasing competition from Central and South American based producers has also contributed to the renewed efforts to resuscitate interest in cocoa production in the region.
The three year European Union funded Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, which will initially draw its membership from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Grenada and Haiti, is also contributing significantly to the resuscitation and renewed interest in the production of the crop.
The Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum hosted its first conference and chocolate expo in November 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago. The conference brought together practitioners, academics, researchers, farmers associations, private manufacturing companies and public officials from across the region. According to the Forum, the world price of cocoa has doubled from US$ 1,500 in mid 2004 to US$ 2,900 in 2008 with an even greater increase in price for the ‘Fine Cocoa’ product of the Caribbean.
Cocoa production is also associated with a fair share of tourism. In Belize there are chocolate tours showing how the crop is grown and processed, particularly in the Mayan communities. In Grenada, Belmont Estates offers tours to visitors to farms and to witness the chocolate making process.
The website of the Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum, which held its first meeting in Trinidad in November 2010. The site contains the presentations made at the conference.
A paper on the History of Cocoa Production in Trinidad and Tobago by Francis L. Bekele, The Cocoa Research Unit, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.
This paper by D.A. Sukha, provides a brief overview on the range of potential value added products that can be made from cocoa and cocoa by products both during the primary and secondary processing stages.
Website of the Cocoa Research Unit of the University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine.
Paper by Lueandra Neptune and Andrew Jacque, presented at the 26th West Indies Agricultural Economics Conference (Caribbean Agro-Economics Society), May 2007.
Associated Brands Industries Limited (ABIL) located in Trinidad and Tobago is the leading manufacturer and distributor of snack foods, chocolate confectionery, biscuits and breakfast cereals in the Caribbean. The Company has been in existence since 1974 and over the years has built up an extensive portfolio of brands including a range of about two hundred and sixteen (216) sku’s under the brand names Sunshine Snacks, Charles Candy, Devon Biscuits and Sunshine and Universal Cereals.
A very small, artisan, chocolate company located on an island in Belize, where the Maya arguably created “chocolate”. They produce a 100% Belizean product using 100% Belizean ingredients.
Belize chocolate tours provide cacao farm tours to San Felipe village and San Pedro Columbia village. See how cacao is grown, learn to process chocolate, and enjoy lunch with a Mayan family in their home.
Information on Grenada cocoa production, its current crop, pricing and ordering.
A news article from the Daily Gleaner on signing of a deal between Jamaica Cocoa Farmers Association and Hershey chocolate company for the supply of cocoa.
Wikipedia article on chocolate production.
This site provides news and information on cocoa related issues internationally.
Basic information on the growing of cocoa worldwide from the International Cocoa Organization.
A document compiled by the World Cocoa Foundation on the trends in the international cocoa market.