UK chocolate maker Charbonnel et Walker is mulling an investment in a local company, which could lead to an expansion of the Jamaican cocoa industry in the medium term.
Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke said the chocolatier has expressed significant interest in increasing its supply of Jamaican fine-flavoured chocolate by investing in production and value-added activities.
The minister said ongoing discussions are underway between the Government and Charbonnel et Walker, which has presented a proposal to purchase a Jamaican cocoa farm of 50 to 80 acres, and to rehabilitate it in order to secure its own supplies. He informed that the Agriculture Ministry has already identified a cocoa farm in St Mary and has had initial discussions with the owners.
"Over the medium term, this company further wishes to establish a fermentary on the farm or outsource their fermenting process to the Cocoa Industry Board (CIB). In the longer term, their intent is to process chocolate here in Jamaica for their markets in Europe," said Clarke at a Jamaica House press conference to provide details about investment prospects coming out of Government's recent trade mission to the UK to coincide with the London Olympic Games and the Jamaica 50 celebrations.
The delegation also had talks with an entity called Black River Chocolate, added Clarke.
"This company sources Jamaican fine-flavoured cocoa from the CIB, makes single origin luxury chocolate and distributes it to several European countries. This company is interested in securing a dedicated supply of Jamaican cocoa," he said.
He noted that Black River also expressed "significant interest" in participating in the process to divest the commercial assets of the CIB, now underway, and more importantly, to work with Jamaican farmers to increase their production so as to secure their supplies.
Minister Clarke informed that contact was also made with the membership of the "fresh produce consortium" and will collaborate with local exporters to overcome specific product challenges to leverage this association in order to increase the exports of Jamaican fresh produce to the UK.
The ministry will shortly commission a task force to address the product specific opportunities and constraints, he said.