Cocoa packed in containers at MCF compound in Gran Couva awaiting shipping. (Image courtesy DIANE CHINPIRE)

The Cocoa industry in Central Trinidad is set to collapse unless urgent work is undertaken to repair the road infrastructure in Gran Couva.

Diane Chinpire, the Assistant Secretary and spokesperson of the Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-op (MCF) said 400 tonnes of dried cocoa beans may just go down the drain unless something happens soon.

Chinpire said the main roadway to the estate is collapsing.  She said the three main cocoa exporters that would feel the blow are the Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-op, the San Juan Estate and the Tabaquite Cocoa Fermentary.

“Close to 10 containers of dried cocoa beans are exported per year to international customers. Due to poor road conditions, trucks are hesitant to collect the containers for shipment.  Drivers fear that because of the bad roads the trucks may overturn when traversing the landslide along the main roadway,” she said.

“Failure to undertake work will directly impact the organizations financially, international customers will be lost, the cocoa industry will be significantly affected and there will be a loss in foreign exchange for the country,” Chinpire pointed out.

She added: “The Gran Couva area boasts the best cocoa in the world—Trinitario Cocoa. The MCF has nowhere else that is accessible and conducive to packing the containers.  All other options would come at a significant cost which MCF will not be able to absorb, and passing that on to the customers will not be fair.”

Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes said approvals had been given by the Programme for the Upgrade of Road Efficiency (PURE) to carry out the repairs.

“It is now in the hands of the Ministry of Works to release the funding to get the repairs done quickly,” the Tabaquite MP stated.

MP Haynes said the community produces some of the best cocoa and the area is an important contributor of agricultural products. She said a large number of the community is employed in the industry.