Trinidad and Tobago has a rich history of cocoa cultivation. I would like to provide you the following interesting facts:
In 1525, the Spanish, with the corresponding development of large plantations, introduced the Criollo cocoa variety (Venezuelan origin) to Trinidad
In 1727, natural disaster and disease resulted in the sudden destruction of cocoa plantings. Subsequently, in 1856, the Forastero variety was introduced from Venezuela. Wild hybridization between Forasteros and the remaining Criollos varieties gave rise to the Trinitario variety. So Trinidad was actually the birth place of the today well known and appreciated Trinitario variety.
By the end of the 19th century, there was an increase in the area planted and particularly in the replacement of sugar cane with cocoa in the large French and Spanish plantations.
In 1920, the Government of Trinidad intervened by setting up a loan system for small cocoa farmers. This program, along with favorable growing conditions for the Trinitario variety, helped to make Trinidad become the world’s fifth largest producer with a production volume of almost 35,000 tons (75,238,000 pounds in 1921)
In 1935, the first selections of Imperial College Selection (ICS) clones were developed and distributed to growers by the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture.
In 1939, oil production began, and coupled with low returns for cocoa, resulted in an increasing lack of interest in cocoa, which was exacerbated by World War II. As a result, the cultivated area decreased by 50 per cent and production fell by 75 percent.
From 1959 to 1960, there was an increase in the area planted and in production, along with the creation of propagation units for selected hybrids distributed initially in cutting form (clones), then also in seedling form. Genetic improvement (resistance to black pod rot and witches’ broom) continued, and TSH (Trinidad Selected Hybrids) or TSA (Trinidad Selected Amazons) lines, derived from crosses between Trinitario and Upper Amazon materials, were created for resistance to black pod rot and witches’ broom. Almost eight million plants were distributed, covering 10,000 ha. These actions, however, did not stem the decline in cocoa production that began in about 1960 and continued through today.
Today, Trinidad only exports around a1000 tons of cocoa per year. If past trends continue, Trinidad will cease to be a cocoa exporting country within the next 15 years, as has happened in coffee, despite the good reputation of cocoa from Trinidad. The few tons currently going into the niche markets will not be enough for Trinidad to maintain recognition in the international market.
Source: Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board Needs Assessment, 2000