Trinidad And Tobago gave cocoa to the World
In 1716 a Criollo variety of cocoa from Mexico was first planted in Trinidad. However, many of the plants started to die around 1728 due to an incidents called the “Blast”. As a result, planters went into South America and brought the Foresto which they inter planted between the surviving Criollo plants. This resulted in a hybrid variety called the “Trinitario”. The Trinitario variety of cocoa was exclusive to Trinidad and Tobago and became a major agricultural export for the country at the turn of the 19th century.
During that period, cocoa beans production averaged over 35,000 metric tonnes a year making Trinidad and Tobago the fourth largest exporter of cocoa beans in the world. However, in 1920s the Witches Broom disease devastated the cocoa industry once again. This resulted in reduced yield, increased labour costs and with the development of the oil industry, workers left the fields. By the late 1920s many of the plantations were abandoned and cocoa production dropped below 20,000 metric tonnes.
In 1930 the Imperial School of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad established the Cocoa Research Scheme to look for varieties of Trinitario cocoa that were more disease resistant. The research identified 100 disease resistant varieties of Trintarios called the Imperial College Selections (ICS 1 through ICS 100).
Today many of the large cocoa producing countries grow fine flavour cocoa using these varieties. Trinidad and Tobago is still recognized by the International Cocoa organization (ICCO) as one of the ten countries in the world that produces fine flavour cocoa. Unfortunately, our cocoa production never recovered and today our cocoa production averages less than 600 metric tonnes annually, less than 1% of total world output.