A second chocolate factory has opened its doors in Grenada using the rich cocoa grown locally to create an internationally class brand chocolate known as “Jouvay”.
The community of Diamond, St Marks, welcomed the opening of the Diamond Chocolate Factory with a lavish ceremony on the grounds of the century old Diamond Estate building last week Thursday.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, Agriculture Minister, Roland Bhola and Member of Parliament for the area, Health Minister Clarice Modeste-Curwen.
The factory when fully commissioned will employ 20 people on an eight-hour shift-system using state of the art machines.
One of the principal figures behind the initiative is L.A. Burdick, a Director L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates of New York who partnered with the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) for the production of the Grenadian chocolate.
This is “a chocolate maker’s dream come true”, said Burdick who came to Grenada in 2002 and has been living in Diamond, St Mark for the past three years to ensure that Grenada produces a world classed brand chocolate.
GCA Board member, Christopher Williams described the occasion as the realisation of a dream that was reached through shared determination, resoluteness, perseverance and the blessings from the Almighty God.
“Cocoa farmers have risen from the ashes after two devastating hurricanes and severe drought and fears in 2010 to where we are now”, Williams told the gathering.
“Cocoa farmers, your hard work, your faith and confidence in our Directors and Management have helped us to move from virtually zero to two million pounds of cocoa annually. The cocoa farmers in Grenada are responsible for making this project possible,” he said.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ramsey Rush who often speaks of his dream to merge GCA with the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA), proudly stated that, “Nutmeg is black Gold, Cocoa is Diamond.”
Rush said the decision of the GCA to venture into value added products was part of the strategic plan for the sustainability and development of this pivotal sub-sector of the agriculture industry and marked the 300th anniversary of the arrival of Cocoa in Grenada.
He stated that his intention is to “elevate the factory into a global supplier of premium chocolate”.
“…We are certain that the odds are in our favour. We not only have the best beans but the perfect partner, the support from government and farmers and the people of Grenada”, he said.
According to Rush, the opening of the factory is the fulfillment of a gigantic dream the GCA had for many years and that he is confident that the benefits that would be derived from the facility will impact on the lives of farmers since it has the potential to provide farmers with better opportunities.
He pointed out that in seeking to develop the factory, the GCA deliberately avoided putting farmers in huge debts by borrowing funds from the commercial banks.
He said the association utilized $1.5 million of its own resources and also benefited from vital financial assistance from USAID of US$170,000.00, as well as $200,000.000 from government, and the expertise from L.A. Burdick to make the project a reality.
Rush told the ceremony that the cocoa production seen in recent years seems to suggest that the industry is on the rebound after it’s destruction by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
He noted that performance in the industry did not happen by accident but came as a result of strategic planning, concerted efforts of the Board of Directors and Management to implement efficient management systems.
It was also helped, he said by the provision of better incentives for farmers and a resurgence of confidence by farmers in the industry.
Rush announced that farmers are currently paid 80 cents on every $1.00 earned by the association from sales of the product.
In addition, 7% of the dollar goes to handle administration and salaries which, he said reflects the philosophy of GCA “to let those who labour hold the reigns”.
US Charge d’ Affaires, Louis Chrishock, who also addressed the gathering
that the contribution of US$170,000.00 towards the development of the plant reflects the commitment of the people and government of the United States to support business and the Grenadian economy.
Health Minister Modeste-Curwen believes that the setting up of the plant in her constituency will help to make a difference in the lives of the people of St Mark and send a special message to young people that Agriculture is not useless.
Agriculture Minister, Roland Bhola, said his ministry feels a great sense of achievement with the coming on stream of the project after many years of attempts to get it into production.
He noted that despite the fact that cocoa has been around in Grenada for more than 300 years, there was never any serious initiative in the past to move towards value added products with the exception of the Grenada Chocolate Factory, producer of organic chocolate started by the late Mott Green in 1999.
Green died from an electrical shock on June 1, 2013 as he worked on a new piece of equipment at his plant in St. Andrew.
The cocoa association also recognised the contributions of several persons to the fruition of the plant such as Plant Engineer, Jim Mark, L.A. Burdick, GCA Chairman Rush and Manager of the association, Andrew Hastick.
Students from the St Mark’s Secondary School sung several song, did some poetry and drama as part of the historic event.