The Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited (MCFCSL) is a totally farmer-owned-and-run registered Co-operative whose aim is to assist in revitalizing the cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago and improve the standard of living of its farmers by commanding a better price for its cocoa beans.
The Co-operative operates a Central Processing Facility at San Antonio Estate, 619 Main Road Gran Couva, where farmers bring in their wet cocoa and are paid. This cocoa is then fermented and dried for export as well as local sales. Countries to which the cocoa is exported include Japan, France and the US.
In 2009, five farmers got together and began discussions regarding the formation of a Co-operative to re-vitalise the cocoa farms in the Montserrat region in Gran Couva, Trinidad and Tobago and improve the standard of living of its farmers/members by commanding a better price for its cocoa.
In 2010, the MCFCSL was formed and today the Co-operative is comprised of some 48 large and small farmers in the Montserrat Hills region of Central Trinidad. The Montserrat region has a long history of producing cocoa and is particularly known for its fine flavour cocoa. In fact, the tag line of MCFCSL is “preserving the fine flavours of T&T”.
In 2016, Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited became the first nation in the English-speaking Caribbean to be certified as sustainable by the New York-based organisation, Rainforest Alliance.
The President of Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited, Mr. Christopher Paul, issued the following statement:
The Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited is pleased to announce its Certification by Rainforest Alliance. Nestled in the Montserrat Hills in Gran Couva, Central Trinidad, the Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited is a farmer-owned-and-run registered Co-operative whose aim is to assist in the re-vitalisation of the cocoa industry in Trinidad and Tobago.
Our Mission is to produce quality cocoa products in compliance with industry best practice, which would attract a premium price that would enhance the lives of our members in particular and the community in general.
Our Co-operative was constituted in 2010 and has grown from a group of 5 farmers to 42 farmers with a mix of large and small farms in the Montserrat Hills region of Central Trinidad. This region has a long history of producing cocoa with distinct fruity, floral and woody flavours.
Over the past 6 years we have worked closely with the Cocoa Research Centre of the University West Indies, who continue to provide us with support in flavour profiling and training. We have also received sterling support from the Commissioner of Co-operatives and his team.
In December 2015, we completed our 5-year strategic plan and one of the opportunities listed in that plan was ‘Achieving Certification from Rainforest Alliance’ which would create opportunities for our cocoa to fetch a higher price internationally. Today our Co-operative is pleased to announce that we have received certification from Rainforest Alliance.
We have also successfully negotiated and signed a 3-yr contract with Laderach of Switzerland for 2 containers of our dried beans with an option for a third at a premium price.
The principles outlined by Rainforest Alliance are very clear. We must be committed to:
- Protecting the Environment
- Conserving Water
- Fair Treatment and good working conditions for all our workers
- Occupational Health and Safety and
- Community Relations among other things.
All our farmers must also be committed to these principles. This means that as a group we must train and monitor all farms on a regular basis. Since the Audit, we have already put steps in place to continue to monitor our farms to ensure compliance with the Sustainable Agriculture Standards.
We are a small but very dedicated group and we strongly believe that our model as a Co-operative can be used by other cocoa farming communities to re-vitalise the cocoa industry and improve the livelihood of farmers. We, as farmers, talk to other farmers and impart relevant information. We also share our knowledge with primary and secondary school children, university students and visitors alike. We also display our products in community fairs and markets.
Our next project is to build our very own chocolate factory and market our ‘Montserrat Hills’ brand of chocolates.
We have also been working with the Ministry of Trade to acquire our Geographical Indication for this area. Geographical Indication would again increase the worth of our cocoa and take us closer to the desired price.
The President of the Co-operative thanks our Board of Directors, our Manager, our Marketing Officer and our dedicated workers who assist in the fermenting and drying of the cocoa. It is noteworthy that our beans are dried using only natural sun-drying methods.
Today is a special day in our history.
Montserrat Cocoa Farmers Co-operative Society Limited.
2nd April, 2016.
The link below is directed to a blog about the designation written by Mr. Oscar Maroto, Sustainable Agriculture Manager for Latin America, Rainforest Alliance:
Board of Directors
Mr. Christopher Paul
Mr. Anacletus Lee Sam
Mr. Anthony St. Bernard
Mr. Ronald Bhagan
Mr. Raffique Ali
Ms. Diane Chinpire
Mrs. Angela Tang Howad
Mr. Henry Ramberan
Mr. Tranel Ghany
Ms. Jasmine Rostant-Knox
Mr. Jerome Pino
Mrs. Phyllis Borde
Mr. George Burns