After the English conquest, existing plantings of cocoa were extended until 1727, when all except sheltered plantings were destroyed by a ‘blast’ (supposedly a hurricane). Original plantings were of the Criollo type of cocoa, fine flavoured but weak in growth. This type was replaced by Forastero, a vigorous but poorer quality type, crossed together to produce hybrids known as “Trinitario”, a name derived from Trinidad. Trinitario is common in the Caribbean and provides a premium quality cocoa. Soon after the replanting and until 1850, a severe import duty imposed in England discouraged the growing of the crop except for local use.
By 1930, plantations were suffering from the effect of age and exposure to the sun, both of which caused a decline in cocoa yields. Discouraged by the fall in price and diminishing yields, many farmers dug out their trees and replanted their field with bananas or let them became pastureland.
During the last war exports and imports came under the control of the Government Competent Authority. In 1951 Government assumed complete control of cocoa exports. A cocoa Marketing Board was set up to purchase only good quality cocoa from produce dealers, to remove extraneous matter and to arrange exports.
Cocoa then, as now, is a crop grown mainly in the restricted acreages, too small to produce enough for fermenting. Unfermented cocoa is difficult to sell being of very limited use to manufacturers. When plans were drawn up in 1954 for the expansion of the industry, it was necessary to arrange for the establishment of central Fermentaries from which fermented cocoa could be produced.
The Cocoa Industry Board was established in 1957 and replaced the Cocoa Marketing Board and was given complete control of the Industry. The Board consists of seven (7) members appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, three (3) of whom are growers’ representatives chosen from a panel of five (5) submitted by the J.A.S. Cocoa Growers Co-operative Federation Limited.
The core function of the Cocoa Industry Board was the marketing of Jamaica’s fine and flavoured cocoa internationally. This involved:
- Promoting the growing of cocoa
- Providing technical support to farmers
- Purchasing and processing wet cocoa beans
- Selling dried fermented beans
Between 1957 and 1962 the Board established four (4) central fermentaries serving all cocoa growing areas. The licenses issued to special dealers for the purchase of cocoa were revoked and the Board became the sole purchasing agent for cocoa.
Processing took place at two (2) strategically located fermenteries located at Morgan’s Valley in Clarendon, and Richmond in St. Mary. The provided warehousing and sorting/packaging facilities for cocoa beans for export.
The highest production periods for cocoa took place in the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This period, which lasted about ten (10) years, averaged approximately 2,000 metric tonne annually. This period also coincided with an estimated 12,000 farmers, along with strong outside support, particularly from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
However on the turn of the century, the Government of Jamaica took a policy decision to exit the commercial operation of the Cocoa Sector and continues with the regulatory function. The Cocoa Industry Board Act 1957 was repealed and replaced by the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority (JACRA) Act 2017, the act which came into effect on January 1, 2018.