At one point, Norman Christie, bpTT’s Regional President, couldn’t get more than a sentence out about “our band” before the audience exploded into lusty applause and catcalls of appreciation.
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Cocoa investor confident of industry revival
Finding labour for the cocoa industry in T&T should not be an issue as long as the salary offered is right, says Ashley Parasram, director, T&T Fine Cocoa Company Ltd (TTFCCL). Parasram is convinced that the cocoa industry can be revived. His comments come as the TTFCCL signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Food Production on April 30, which will allow the company to purchase cocoa beans from local farmers to be processed into cocoa liquor. The cocoa liquor will be shipped to Artisans du Chocolat in the United Kingdom for the production of a branded T&T line of gourmet dark chocolate bars.
TTFCCL is a private-sector company and is founded with four private investors with a “deep desire” to develop the cocoa sector in T&T. One of the investors include UK-based chocolate company, Artisans du Chocolat. That company, according to Parasram, has an annual turnover of $60 million and employs 40 people.
According to a study conducted in 2012 by Frances Bekele from the Association of Professional Agricultural Scientists, the cocoa industry in T&T declined in the 1970s and 1980s. The decline was as a result of the boom in the energy sector, which resulted in the migration of workers from cocoa to the energy sector.
Speaking in a telephone interview on Friday, Parasram said: “People are not going to work if they are not going to be paid properly, and you are not going to be paid properly if you are working on a crop that is not paying well. I think incentivising people to get involved (in the industry) is hopefully going to attract that, bringing in the right sort of training experts to train people on how to grow the cocoa properly.”
Not only is Parasram and the team of investors developing the cocoa industry, but he intends to create an opportunity for students to learn about producing cocoa. The company plans to work with the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, along with other advisers, since there is need to have a wide understanding of growing cocoa.
“The Lok Jack MBA students get an opportunity to engage with many of these people (investors). They (the students) all have access to the chocolate partners in the UK, so they can get the first-hand experience on how to really look at this (the industry) in a more dynamic way.”
A target to start production in October has been set.