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Government to pay cocoa farmers by month end

Published:Thursday | March 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The Government has pledged to pay money owed to cocoa farmers, who had supplied the product to the Cocoa Industry Board, by the end of this financial year.

Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier told members of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament Tuesday evening that the payment would be made by the end of March.

At present, the Government is taking steps to divest the Cocoa Industry Board, as it could not continue to sustain losses at the state-owned entity.

"The Government is far down the wicket of divesting itself of all the cocoa assets that we have, and we are only going into regulation. We are giving the private sector a chance to step up to the plate and get involved," Kellier explained.

With the premium cocoa produced locally, the agriculture minister said a key investor would be visiting the country in a matter of weeks to sign a memorandum of understanding with farmers to acquire cocoa farms and to develop processing facilities.

"The investor is going to purchase a farm in St Thomas and additional lands for processing. He wants 50 tonnes of the product to supply his high-end market in the United Kingdom," Kellier divulged.

The agriculture minister said he has been advised by experts that, within another three years, worldwide demand for cocoa would outstrip supply. Noting that Jamaica's cocoa was of distinct quality, Kellier urged local farmers to resuscitate the industry and get back on track in anticipation for the expected demand for the product.