Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell (file photo)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A feasibility study into cocoa production in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) along with the technical and economic analysis are all positive, former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell said this week after a trip to London, where he met with directors of Armajaro, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cocoa and coffee.

Sir James, in a press release, said discussions in London included the sourcing of plant material, disease resistance, responses from research institutions, technical and financial support for the farmers, linkage with premium chocolate manufactures, and the institutional systems to be put in place in St Vincent.

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“The directors reported on the analysis of leaf samples sent from St Vincent to the United States Department of Agriculture, and the relevance of information from the cocoa research institutes in Costa Rico, Ecuador and Trinidad. These technical and economic studies have concluded that fine-quality cocoa production is feasible in St Vincent, with a serious long term future,” the release said.

According to Sir James, Armajaro has confirmed that they propose to make SVG a premium producer of fine-quality cocoa, with all the essentials of traceability and sustainability.

“This implies direct linkage with local cocoa farmers and quality control to satisfy Rain Forest certification,” the statement said.

The next stage of the project involves seeking a memorandum of understanding with the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves headed Unity Labour Party government.

Armajaro directors will visit St. Vincent in August with the aim of concluding such an agreement.

This will pave the way for commencement of project implementation in September this year, according to the statement, which reminded farmers that they are expected to intercrop the cocoa field initially, as cocoa yields begin in three years.

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“Sir James expressed the view that, with hard work and dedication to quality, cocoa income can attain the level of maximum income from the banana industry within 12 years, and sustain the quality of life in the countryside and beyond the farms with ancillary economic activity elsewhere,” the statement said.

“He also suggests that in due course an annual cocoa and chocolate festival could be organized as a new social feature in the country’s calendar, blending with our tourism.”

The former head of government further reported that Armajaro’s world trade in 2010 exceeded 300,000 tonnes purchased at over US$3,000 per tonne adding that the company also trades in coffee and sugar.

“I sincerely hope that this project works, as I have been deeply worried about the plight of our farmers in the countryside, who were once the backbone of our economy. One day we may see that this was the light at the end of the tunnel,” Sir James said, according to the statement.

Sir James first proposed cocoa production at his New Democratic Party’s convention last year.

However, the party lost the general election last year and Sir James has since partnered with the Gonsalves government, which had ridiculed the idea when it was first proposed.