At a Glance
- Population: 1.32 million
- Capital: Port of Spain
- Language: English
- Rural Population: 41.14%
- Median Age: 33.8 years
- Land area under cocoa production: 4,841 ha
- Cocoa Production: 420 tons/year
Photo credit: Wikimedia
History of Cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is a place of cocoa superlatives that are inextricably woven into the history and culture of this twin island Republic. It is the birthplace of Trinitario (which translates to “native of Trinidad”) and the early Imperial College Selections (ICS) varieties, the longest cocoa breeding programme that led to the Trinidad Selected Hybrid (TSH) varieties. And it is home to the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies — the worlds’ oldest cocoa research facility and the custodian of the International Cocoa Genebank (ICGT) with over 2400 cocoa varieties.
Cocoa was introduced into Trinidad in 1525 by Spanish colonizers who planted the Criollo variety in Trinidad. Following a “blast” that almost wip
ed out the industry in 1727, Forastero types, typical of the Lower Amazon region, were introduced from Venezuela. These freely interbred with the remnant Criollo population to create the Trinitario types. These spontaneous hybrids led to dramatic increases in production and contributed to Trinidad and Tobago becoming, in 1921, the third largest producer of cocoa in the world. A few years later, the decrease in yield following the introduction of the Witches’ Broom Disease, the volatility created by a global production glut, and labour shortages precipitated by the discovery and rapid expansion of the petrochemical sector in Trinidad and Tobago, resulted in the decline of the cocoa industry.
To halt the decline in the industry caused by the Witches’ Broom Disease in Trinidad, the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) established the Cocoa Research Scheme in 1927. Under the scheme, the 100 best performing Trinitario selections were released as ICS clones. Many of them were distributed worldwide and have become the basis of the fine or flavour cocoa production globally. The ICS clones were subsequently crossed with upper Amazon clones by the Department of Agriculture in Trinidad to initiate a recurrent selection programme in the 1950’s that has produced several generations of TSH and continues to date. In 1962 following independence, the Cocoa Research Scheme later morphed into the Cocoa Research Unit (now the Cocoa Research Centre) of the University of the West Indies.
Sources: Bekele, Frances L. The History of Cocoa Production in Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago produces a superior quality cocoa, which fetches a premium price on the world market and is recognised as a 100% exclusive producer of fine or flavour cocoa by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). Manufacturers value the complex and balanced flavour profile of cocoa from Trinidad and Tobago, which is characterised by a distinctive raisin dried fruit character that lingers throughout the taste experience. Bright fresh fruit, specifically ripe tropical fruit, and floral notes with mild woody notes and balanced acidity, bitterness and astringency with a robust cocoa flavour and a clean finish.
Source: Cocoa Research Centre
International Awards and Geographical Indications
The pedigree of the cocoa beans from Trinidad and Tobago is based on the significant price premium that the cocoa beans from Trinidad and Tobago has fetched over the years in the world fine or flavour cocoa market. Its reputation has been further cemented by the numerous awards the beans from various cocoa estates have been receiving, over the years, at the International Cocoa Awards (ICA) of the Cocoa of Excellence Programme (CoEx) at the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris. Since the inception of the CoEx and ICA in 2008, Trinidad and Tobago has won eight (8) ICA’s with many samples also placing in the top 50 of this programme. Additionally, the uniqueness of certain cocoa producing regions in Trinidad has also been recognised as Geographical Indications. Trinidad Montserrat Hills Cocoa is one such geographical indication.
Cocoa in Trinidad and Tobago was traditionally grown as a cocoa dominant mixed cropping system planted with seedlings and/or clonally propagated cocoa plants together with bananas, citrus and other tree crops. These were planted on large plantations located on the hillsides and in valleys of the mountain ranges in Trinidad and the Main Ridge in Tobago each with their own fermentation and drying facilities. Over time many of the large plantations were broken up into smaller holdings and currently, small holder farmers contribute to most of the cocoa production. In some cases, the small holder farmers have come together to form cooperatives with their own centralised fermentation and drying facilities. Some of the large estates still remain operational and produce and market single estate origin beans. There are also a handful of centralised fermentation and drying facilities that buy wet beans from farmers, process and sell to brokers. Some small holder farmers operate outside of the cooperatives and process their own beans and sell as microlots.
Cocoa marketing in Trinidad and Tobago was liberalised in 2014 after being centrally controlled by a state Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board since 1962. The cooperatives, fermentary operators, large estate owners sell larger quantities of beans to brokers or directly to chocolate manufacturers. There are now a growing number of microlot cocoa producing small holder farms that either directly sell cocoa beans to microbatch chocolatiers or through brokers who operate in the boutique tree-to-bar markets. The Cocoa Research Centre provides independent quality certification and traceability services to cocoa producers and buyers of cocoa whilst the Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (CDCTTL) and the Ministry of Agriculture Lands and Fisheries (MALF) provides targeted support to increase production and manage quality at the farm level. Other state agencies such as The National Export Facilitation Organization of Trinidad and Tobago, (exporTT) as the trade policy implementing agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), provides support through export-market identification and access initiatives. They also actively engage the industry through targeted export-oriented learning opportunities for both cocoa bean growers and chocolate producers.
Contacts in Country
The Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries
Contact: Office of the Permanent Secretary
Tel: (868) 220- 6253
Cocoa Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (CDCTTL)
Contact: Mr. Leon Granger
Tel: (868) 671-1001
Export Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (ExporTT)
Contact: Deborah Hoyte-Redman
Tel: (868) 612-3988
Cocoa Research Centre (CRC)
The University of the West Indies
St. Augustine Campus
Contact: Prof. Path Umaharan
Tel: (868) 662-8788