“Cocoa for National and Tourism Use and Regional Export — From Cocoa Bean to Tea” is the theme on which Dominica is focusing as the country participates in a regional quality infrastructure project.
Three other Caribbean countries are also part of the project which is being coordinated by the Caribbean Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) in collaboration with the International Cooperation Department of the German Metrology Institute- Physikalisch- Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB).
The Cocoa Cluster Development Project and the Dominica Bureau of Standards held a workshop with various stakeholders recently to develop an action plan that would guide the necessary interventions required for enhancing the Cocoa Bean to Tea Value Chain in Dominica.
The main goal of the workshop which was held from July 27th to July 29th was to improve the quality of products and services in an effort to increase the productivity and export capacity of selected value chains using the CALIDENA methodology.
Local facilitator for the workshop, Dr. Ian Lambert said the focus was on processors and producers for the market with an intention to ensure that Dominica meets international best practices and establishes the quality infrastructure necessary to compete with any other producer in the international market.
“We will end the program with an action plan with the intent to bring a number of stakeholders at every step in the value chain to come up with a plan as to how we can take the industry forward within the next 12 to 18 months,” Dr. lambert said in an interview with Dominica News Online (DNO).
According to him, this action plan will involve producers, agro-processors, the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the Dominica Bureau of standards and the National Center for Testing Excellence.
During the workshop, participants were taken through the various stages of the value chain and given the opportunity, through working groups, to start looking at each stage of the value chain and what is necessary to improve the quality infrastructure.
Dr. Lambert is of the view that the workshop will put Dominica “ahead of the pack” and strongly suggested that other cocoa producing islands such as Grenada and Saint Lucia, begin looking at the quality infrastructure with regard to value-added products, for example, the cocoa products, as well as conformity assessment testing through laboratory analyses.
The workshop facilitator said that to his knowledge, and as far as CROSQ and the PTB is concerned, Dominica is the first country to take the first step in doing the cocoa value-added chain.
Meanwhile, Dr. Reginald Thomas of the Ministry of the Blue and Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security highlighted the important role that cocoa plays in the agricultural sector as it contributes to livelihoods of our farmers and helps to build resilience.
“It’s one of the true crops that can be placed in the production system but importantly, cocoa has come from being an estate crop to an integrated crop and as such we see the importance of cocoa worldwide in terms of the market available and it’s agro-processed products,” he stated.
Thomas said Dominica has a unique, fine-flavored cocoa noting that within the last decade, the country has won prestigious recognition in terms of the quality of its cocoa production.
“Trinidad has been in cocoa for many years, but we still have some of the better-quality cocoa in terms of the awards that we have won. We are not going to compete in production in terms of the amount of cocoa because the amount of land does not allow for that,” he pointed out. “However, the fine flavor quality is what we pride ourselves in. Within the OECS we want to lead the way in terms of moving this fine-flavored sub-sector forward.”
The Ministry of Agriculture Official revealed that Dominica has an excess of 350 acres of abandoned cocoa lands and therefore encourages these land owners to come on board, invest in their farms and secure a part of “this important business.”
“For the producers’ [with] whom we have direct contact and impact on, we want to encourage as many people back into this sector. We have done cost of production and other business models to show the lucrative nature of this commodity so we just want to invite as many people as possible to join in this business and to earn a livelihood that we can we can be proud of. The land is there for our production, the environment is ideal and so, we have everything that is necessary to get us on the right foot,” Thomas stated.
Thomas added that the workshop was just one component of the process because dating back to 2016, the government commenced the rehabilitation of the cocoa sector.
He said teams were employed doing pruning and to help farmers rehabilitate.
“Hurricane Maria dealt a serious blow to the sector destroying almost a hundred percent of the production but if it were not for that, we would have been more advanced in terms of our rehabilitated fields and our production. We had propagated plans and distributing to Farmers all in an effort to expand the sector,” Dr. Thomas declared.