September 19, 2008

The Toledo Cocoa Growers Association (TCGA) held a symposium today in Belmopan at the George Price Centre. The symposium was based on the topic “Cocoa Genetics in Belize: What are we doing and where are we going? TCGA president Armando Choco tells us more.

Armando Choco, President – ToledoCocoa Growers Association
“Basically the symposium was to discuss and to update the steak holders that are directly involved in the Cocoa industry ICA, the Ministry, a lot of local NGO’s that work directly with agro-forest in Toledo District some of the key factors affecting the industry. Also discussed was the potential intervention to increase productivity at a national level and at the farmer level.”

In answering the question “what are we doing?” Choco told love news about one of the Toledo Cocoa Growers Association’s current programs

Armando Choco, President – Toledo Cocoa Growers Association

“Currently we are executing a Central American cocoa project in collaboration with CATIE from Costa Rica. We are introducing a new type of cloned cocoa material that is geared at increasing productivity. At the moment TCGA is consistently encouraging farmers to produce high quality cocoa seeds. We do that by using an existing stock that we have which was planted some 25 or 30 years ago. These are mostly trinitario variety cocoa which have been very exceptional to the company that we sell to. So basically on the germ plasm that we have at the moment, the project is geared at improving the current stock and improving other cocoa materials so they can be highly productive and resistant to manila.”

Environmental consciousness was not forgotten as panelists from analyzed different areas of cocoa farming which includes the different types of cocoa varieties. The main goal being to map a path for “where we age going with cocoa genetics in Belize?

Armando Choco, President – ToledoCocoa Growers Association
“The existing cocoa that we have right now; farmers grow them on their individual farms. But with the new project we are identifying areas where we can establish these clonal materials. We are collaborating with various educational institutions such as IT VET who at this point have arranged the establishment of one acre of mutliclonal garden and they have also agreed to manage a nursery or us and these new materials. Similarly we are making negotiations with farmers to manage these cocoa farms for us. In all we will be establishing 5 hectors or the equivalent of 13 acres of cocoa clonal cocoa garden. By doing that we are creating a sustainable TCGA so that we can promote the interest of its member. That is where we are going; Improving the quality and quantity of cocoa in Belize.”

A plan of action was discussed for dealing with all the challenges that face the Cocoa farmers in Belize so they can satisfy demand on the local and international level.

Live and let live