Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Karl Samuda, says the Government is committed to the expansion of the cocoa industry and will be offering increased support to stakeholders.
He said the Ministry, through the extension services of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), will be designating teams to work directly with the farmers in the cocoa industry.
“Small farmers will receive the benefit of highly skilled extension officers who will visit with them, guide them and assist them in how to manage their farms,” the Minister said.
Mr. Samuda said the extension officers will also provide technical guidance to farmers on reaping practices, as well as in detecting and reacting to any introduction of diseases within fields.
Addressing the opening ceremony for a two-day International Fine Cocoa Conference and Chocolate Expo at the Spanish Court Hotel, today (February 6), the Minister said this collaboration between the Government and the independent cocoa farmers is crucial.
In addition to technical advice, farmers will be provided with seedlings and other productivity incentives to encourage an expansion of cocoa production to more parishes across the island.
Meanwhile, Mr. Samuda said legislation to establish the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA), which was passed in the House of Representatives in September last year, will allow cocoa farmers to determine their prices and enable higher levels of competition within the industry.
The JACRA results from the merger of the Coffee Industry Board, Cocoa Industry Board, the regulatory functions of the Coconut Industry Board and the Export Division of the Ministry. It is responsible for the development, regulation, promotion and standardisation of the agricultural commodities industry. It is intended to ensure the efficient and competitive development of the sector.
“Instead of the industry being controlled by the Government dictating prices for the product, the new legislation, which focuses on regulating industries that contain brands that are critical to Jamaica, allows the players within the industry to be free to market their own product. This means an independent farmer can go and market his own product and go in search of the best price,” Mr. Samuda said.
He said the Government will focus on monitoring the integrity of the quality of products in the market, to ensure it meets internationally recognised standards.
The Minister said this provides a new opportunity for the cocoa industry. “A new door has opened and the Government will be doing everything to promote the expansion of cocoa production,” he added.
The International Fine Cocoa Conference and Chocolate Expo was hosted through the International Fine Cocoa Innovation Centre, a project of the Cocoa Research Centre of the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus.
The event brought together 100 delegates from across the Caribbean and the United States of America. There were sessions on a range of current issues related to the industry, such as disease control, certification, value-addition and processing.