Caribbean Export OUTLOOK 2016 - 2017


Caribbean Fine Flavoured Cocoa: AGlobal Niche? By Lorraine Waldropt

and premium prices offered for fine flavoured cocoa, the Caribbean cocoa sector continues its streak of low production and low dominance in the world market. Today, the world cocoa industry is an almost US$100billion industry, poised to growby another 20%over the next decade. According to theWorld Cocoa Foundation, 40-50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihood. In CARIFORUM cocoa-producing countries, tens of thousands of rural, low-income farmers and workers engage in the cocoa industry that serves hundreds of thousands of dependents. How then, in light of the socio-economic relevance of cocoa to CARIFORUM countries which produce this key crop, can the dark chocolate/

Champagne – rich and exquisite – is a niche product with a competitive advantage, highly differentiated and specialised for an elitemarket. Indeed, the beverage is branded, bottled and marketed in such a way that those who demand it must pay the price. Now shift your gaze to dark chocolate made from Caribbean origin cocoa – the smooth taste of heaven on your palette, delectably infused with the intrinsic fine flavours of the Caribbean. Martin Christy, one of the world’s foremost experts on chocolate tasting and founder of the fine chocolate review website,, will certainly authenticate this claim, as Caribbean origin chocolate is highly differentiated, demanded by an elitemarket and fetches a decent price. But is Caribbean cocoa in the same branding bandwagon and, if so, are the opportunities for development of the industry maximised? view of the International Cocoa Organization’s classification of bulk cocoa (used for mass milk chocolate markets) and fine flavoured cocoa (used for niche upscale dark chocolate markets), the International Cocoa Agreement, 1993, recognises 17 countries as producers of fine flavoured cocoa, of which eight are classified as exclusive producers. These eight include seven CARIFORUM countries – Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago –with theDominicanRepublic as part producers. Herein resides an opportunity for these countries to build a high-value niche cocoa industry, like the grapes industry in Champagne. Despite the high demand for theCaribbean fine flavoured aromatic brand of cocoa, which is well sought after by the world’s elite chocolatiers, CARIFORUM cocoa accounts for only 5% of world production. Regardless of the high development potential There are some gray areas in the cocoa and grapes analogy due to the Caribbean cocoa dilemma of high potential but low progress. Within the CARIFORUM region, cocoa growing, producing and processing comprise an integral part of many rural farming communities. In

flavoured chocolate origin cocoa picks, and he is committed to addressing the dilemma which plagues the region’s cocoa stakeholders. “I know fine chocolate and I love it. And this is why I can attest to the great fine flavours of cocoa from Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Belize, and the list goes on for the Caribbean. But having good genetic material for the world’s best flavours and maintaining high quality are two separate things,” he says. Christy identifies Germany, Belgium, England, Italy, Spain, and France as the high-end markets for Caribbean origin dark chocolates and cocoa products inEurope. Europeanmanufacturerswho supply chocolate to these markets are the main clients ofCaribbeanfine flavoured cocoa. But these

markets cannot be effectively served without a total transformation of the regional sector towards amodel that propels high quality and branding, to increase production of cocoa as a raw material to meet growing world demands, micro- farmprofitability, value added sub- sectors and contribution to country GDP, he argues.

Today, the world cocoa industry is an almost US $100 billion dollar industry, poised to grow by another 20% over the next decade.

Caribbean cocoa model be moulded along the pathway of success of the champagne/grapes story? While there is no simple answer to this question, a starting point can be accepting and embracing the necessity of change in the branding and associated structural infrastructure of the CARIFORUMcocoa industry. Ametamorphosis of the regional sectormust fundamentally address the most important variables in the champagne success equation which are quality and specialist branding. Inhiscocoatochocolate journey,Christyhastasted fine chocolates of the biggest and smallest world brands, and he and his Direct Cacao team have been the major driving force in guiding targeted developmentofcocoaproducingcountrieswiththe bestcocoaflavourstowardsgreatercompetitiveness and sector sustainability. Countries within the CARIFORUM group are among his favourite fine

“The answer to developing fine flavoured cocoa niche industries in the Caribbean is a drive towards specialisation of the market. While the emphasis is usually placed on increase in quantity, many of the European markets apply a greater weight to quality. As such, the only way CARIFORUM countries can effectively differentiate themselves from other producers of fine flavoured cocoa, such as Madagascar and Papa New Guinea, is through improvement of quality, marketing, branding and specialisation. After these milestones are met then the focus can be channelled towards increase in quantity,” Christy advises. Having perused the world industry and its varied models, he insists that the Caribbean cocoa model should be customised to the needs and capabilities of the niche industry.


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