Grenada: Isle of Cocoa?

Grenada (also known as the Isle of Spice) is becoming a top producer of cocoa not only in the Caribbean, but also worldwide.

The tourism dependent three island state, consisting of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, is the southernmost of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean. Historically an agrarian society, it is known as the ‘Isle of Spice’ or the ‘Spice Island of the Caribbean’ due to its production of large quantities of spices, most notably nutmeg, of which it is the second largest producer in the world.

Grenada, however, like many other Caribbean islands, is heavily dependent on tourism, which represents at least three-quarters of the country’s GDP. Currently, Grenada’s agriculture sector is considered to be on the rebound, still recovering from the effects of Hurricanes Ivan (2004), and Emily (2005). While the agriculture sector possesses the ability to transform Grenada’s economy through diversification, without external investment, it is an uphill battle because the country is still in debt from the post-hurricane reconstruction. The Spice Isle is by no means a hopeless case, though, because it has a secret weapon: cocoa.

In May 2016, the International Cocoa Organization (ICO) determined that there are 23 countries that produce “fine” or “flavour” cocoa, as opposed to “bulk” or “ordinary” cocoa. Of the 23 countries, 8 of them are Caribbean countries, 5 of which, export only this type of cocoa. Grenada is one of these countries. The general distinction between the different flavors of cocoa is related to the tree (Criollo or Trinitario) from which the cocoa is produced.  Traditionally, the market for “fine or flavor” cocoa was relatively small, located mainly in Western Europe, and used to produce “relatively expensive, up-market finished products,” according to ICO. Recently, however, this market has significantly expanded and increased the demand for “fine” or “flavor” cocoa. In addition to the Western European markets, there are now also several domestic markets located in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Grenada’s cocoa has not only been hidden in the shadow of nutmeg and tourism, it has also been constantly removed from the minds of Grenadians by natural disasters.  The occurrence of hurricanes is a serious matter, as to this day, many cocoa fields remain abandoned after multiple severe disturbances. Climate change also poses a large threat as it significantly affects the soil and causes erosion, land degradation, and a plethora of runoff effects. The lack of starting capital and skilled labour also hinders the commercialisation of many rural cocoa plantations. Human resource for cocoa production is dwindling since experienced farmers cannot afford the production process, or fear that it is not profitable. Moreover, young people appear to lack interest in joining the cocoa sector as they themselves do not understand its potential.

In light of increasing awareness of the potential of Grenada’s cocoa industry, there have been many efforts to remove the obstacles that have been blocking cocoa’s path to success. In 2015, the Cocoa Farming Future Initiative (CFFI) initiated a project with the goal of developing a model farm to provide hands-on training in sustainable farming practice for farmers. Additionally, the Initiative sought to hire young individuals and women to work with them. In 2016, through training from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and The University of the West Indies, public technicians, and representatives from 4-H movements (which focus on empowering young people) in Grenada developed the technical capacity to facilitate the development of a strategy to enable national authorities to achieve their soil and land restoration objectives.

The Grenada Chocolate Company (GCC) may provide the perfect example of the possibilities for Grenada’s cocoa industry. GCC began with three men, a cocoa field, and a house. The men possessed the mindset, the skill, and the capital to grow the company. Today, GCC employs a small number of employees who are paid at a higher than average rate. They grow cocoa, process it, and make chocolate on their estate. Further, they made their brand ‘green’ by using solar and wind energy in the manufacturing process, and by growing their cocoa organically. As Grenada’s premier Chocolate Empire, GCC not only set the pace for the industry, but also encouraged foreign investment in the sector, when Green acquired a small farm in a joint venture with Rococo Chocolates, bringing the London-based company to Grenada. The Grenada Organic Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative Society (OCFCS) consists of 13 Cocoa-prenuers, including GCC, Belmont Estate, and Rococo Chocolates Ltd. GCC processes the cocoa of OCFCS members and transports wet beans to Belmont Estate where they are fermented. The OCFCS is a partnership that benefits all of its members. The late Mott Green, a champion of GCC and OCFCS, taught Grenadians a very valuable lesson – you don’t have to go abroad for labour, better pay, or the best chocolate – you can get the best right here.

Belmont Estate, formerly a nutmeg estate, converted 100 of its acres into organic cocoa before joining OCFCS. The Estate stepped outside of the typical bounds of the industry by combining it with the State’s highest GDP earner – tourism. Belmont Estate offers tours through its cocoa plantation, allowing tourists to see the chocolate manufacturing process, and participate in cocoa dancing (a mechanism used to aerate the wet beans).

The volcanic Isle of Spice’s soil creates conditions so unique that cocoa grown in it assumes a distinct flavour. Tourism is a tough business in the Caribbean because there are so many formidable competitors. However, Grenada’s cocoa industry has demonstrated that it can provide manufacturing, agricultural, tourism, and retailing employment simultaneously. Grenada’s 2015 National Agricultural Plan stated that pre-Hurricane Ivan, the cocoa export level was 800MT annually; post-Ivan, the level was approximately 400MT and contributed 6% of the country’s GDP. The estimated demand for cocoa is over 1,000MT annually. Effectively, should Grenada’s cocoa industry be put on the front burner and reach a point where cocoa production is at least 800MT annually, Grenada stands to make at least EC$96,000,00. Additionally, cocoa has potentially important medicinal value, such as antioxidant, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, and chemopreventive. Moreover, it also has nutraceuticals, cosmetic, food, and beverage potential. This represents the value added through merchandising, however, there is also value in research, tourism, and other industries. If Grenada really goes cocoa, it can really spice things up!

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La Tisha Parkinson

La Tisha Parkinson is a final year student at the University of the West Indies St Augustine reading for a BSc in Biology with a minor in Environmental Natural Resource Management. Her passion lies in ecology and related themes such as biodiversity, and conservation. A Trinidad and Tobago national, La Tisha simply tries to make a positive impact in the world with everything she does.

    3 Comments on this post.
  • Miguel monteverde
    20 March 2017 at 4:02 pm
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    Hi I would like to find some information about cocoa farms in sale there in Grenada. a lot

    please if you can help, I will apreciate it a lot.

    many thanks

    Miguel Monteverde

  • Karayipler
    11 April 2017 at 5:17 pm
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    Tourism or Agriculture.. Everytime I visit Caribbean islands, I see more and more people want to do something with the soil. This article surely will open eyes.

  • Gyasi Ambrose
    15 April 2017 at 6:33 pm
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    Well written and the information is truly eye opening and valuable. I especially like that they’re producing the final value added product in Grenada and not just scoring the raw cocoa which has been or in many aspects still is the problem with Caribbean agriculture.

    Great article.

    Looking forward to seeing one about Trinidad’s cocoa industry….

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