UWI to get into cocoa mix
BARBADOS IS TIPPED TO BECOME not only a producer of fine chocolates but a training centre for chocolate makers.
Put that down to a memorandum of understanding which the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus signed yesterday with SPAGnVOLA (pronounced Spang Vola) Chocolatier, a Maryland, United States chocolate-producer.
The MOU paves the way for training at the UWI of people from the Caribbean’s cocoa-producing countries, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent, and elsewhere to turn out high-end chocolate.
It also sets the scene for establishment of a chocolate-making factory by SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier on the near-30 acres of land at Dukes Plantation, St Thomas, which philanthropist Eddie Edghill and his family gave the university.
Professor Leonard O’Garro, head of the UWI’s Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship under which the project falls, told reporters attending the signing ceremony at the university’s Cave Hill Campus that the chocolate-making factory was expected to be established in another year and a half or two years as part of a multimillion dollar project.
The factory would be using Caribbean cocoa to produce its chocolate.
O’Garro said it was too early to tell how many people would find work with the factory but the project “should register on the GDP level and foreign direct investment and employment levels”.
The UWI will not have shares in the factory but will benefit from a number of arrangements, including one governing use of its lands, profit-sharing and provision of a lot of the critical research and backup services needed to advance the programme.
The training programme starts in August with 30 Caribbean nationals who aim to be chocolatiers.
The university will be offering short-term training as well as longer courses, with the package including diploma and full degree programmes.
O’Garro said the courses were also open to people from countries not producing cocoa, such as Barbados, once they were interested in becoming a chocolate producer.
The idea is to make Barbados the hub for such training and “the place where you can get the best high-end chocolates” in the world, according to Professor O’Garro.
The MOU was signed by Cave Hill’s pro-vice chancellor and principal Sir Hilary Beckles and Eric Reid, CEO of SPAGnVOLA.
Reid, born in Panama and with great-grandparents from Martinique and Jamaica, spoke about the importance of Caribbean agriculture adding to the value of its cocoa bean production business.
He pointed out that the people who made the most from raw material production were not the farmers, but people higher up the production chain, with some farmers ending up having less than “peanuts change”.
Sir Hilary said the project was a boost for Caribbean manufacturing and the ideal form of development which the university was willing to support.
He told the gathering that from an early age he was worried about the exploitation of developing countries by multinational chocolate-makers. (TY)