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Sustainability for Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa sector

The trinidad Guardian / T&T’s resurgent cocoa industry has been getting notice across the world, especially with companies like the Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company (TTFCC) making major inroads into European markets.

TTFCC was last week bestowed with the first ever award for innovation by the TTMA and this week launched their chocolates at the prestigious Harrods’ in London. Today, we conclude a story by The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) highlighting the work of the local chocolate company.

Building sustainability

Beyond its core commercial operations, TTFCC is helping to drive improvements in cocoa production nationwide. In October 2016, it joined ranks with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Cocoa Development Company of T&T, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Cocoa Research Center of the University of the West Indies to launch a project called Improving Marketing and Production of Artisanal Cocoa from T&T (Impactt). A three-year program, Impactt is designed to promote jobs and rural livelihoods by helping cocoa growers improve yields and bean quality and ensure they have access to domestic and international value-added markets. “Essentially, Impactt focuses on the development of standards for quality management from farm to table,” Parasram explains. “It is also focusing on the development of certification and traceability systems along with a range of marketing tools to help growers get the best price for their beans in international markets and to generate much-needed foreign exchange to offset the impact of falling oil prices.”

Sustainability is the project’s overriding objective. “We are keen to make cocoa attractive to farmers, improve livelihoods, and in particular bring more women into both cocoa farming and value-added cocoa processing. That is why education, training and capacity building are so important,” he says. It takes five years for a cocoa plant to mature and bear fruit, so Impactt is also encouraging growers to cultivate multiple crops. “You need cash crops. You can’t have growers dependent on a single crop that requires a lot of processing,” he explains.

Opportunities also exist in developing flavourings for chocolate – think cinnamon, honey, mango, tonka bean, vanilla. “There are so many amazing flavours that we could grow here but we just don’t have the capacity to convert them into the required form, so we end up ordering them from France. But with a little investment there is huge potential.”

At the T&T Fine Cocoa Company, developing value added products is one of the priorities for sustainability. PICTURES COURTESY TTFCC.

T&T Fine Cocoa Company’s chocolate is packaged in these eye catching steelpan tins.

What role for intellectual property?

In the short term, the overriding goal is to find practical business models that generate concrete outputs that can be protected by IP rights. “We need to identify and develop practical models and realistic deliverables, and then devise systems where IP supports and protects those deliverables. That way, we avoid regulating where it is not really needed.” But part of that process involves building brand awareness among cocoa growers. They already have a good basis for building their brands. “All the products TTFCC and our partners produce feature the Trinitario bean, are high quality and traceable to a single estate.

These are unique attributes around which to build our brands.”

Using IP rights to support the development of reputable global cocoa/chocolate brands can also enhance the competitive profile of T&T as a whole in international markets.

To ensure that growers have a supportive regulatory environment in which to protect and enhance the value of their brands, TTFCC is working with the national IP office, WIPO and other partners on a range of issues, including in relation to traceability and provenance. “We still have a lot of thinking to do to work out the criteria by which people can claim that something contains Trinitario and is from T&T. In the world of chocolate there are many misleading claims about provenance. When you create a niche brand that is known for quality, origin and flavour, you are going to have a lot of people claiming it’s Trinitario from T&T.

So issues of traceability, branding and intellectual property are going to become increasingly important. It’s really important that we get this right.”

Going forward, TTFCC is planning to work with the 80 cocoa estates under the Impactt project to establish common production standards and a collective or certification mark that guarantees provenance and quality. Using IP rights in this way is a useful strategic response to issues of cocoa blending and origin. It further helps to reinforce the origin-linked value of Trinitario cocoa and boost growers’ incomes.

Reviving T&T’s ailing cocoa sector, and safeguarding the know-how accumulated by growers over generations, presents many tough challenges. The process requires the backing of investors and sustained buy-in from government, academia, growers and consumers. But success also hinges on broad recognition of the role that the intellectual property system can play in safeguarding the quality and integrity of the country’s high-grade cocoa products.

Only time will tell if TTFCC and its partners succeed in making T&T the world’s premier mouth-watering chocolate destination.

? This article appears courtesy of WIPO and was first published in the October edition of WIPO Magazine.

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