Business & Industry

Dec 1, 2017

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

The islands of São Tomé and Príncipe has the best conditions in the world for the production of cocoa. After a long period of weak production, began to appear in Sao Tome and Principe, a little over five years, a number of initiatives with the aim of reviving the cocoa culture in the archipelago.

By ALFREDO MIRANDA

Until 2020, the country expects to achieve the production of, at least, 10 thousand tons per year.

After the nationalization of the "plantations" (farms) of cocoa, in 1975, the production decreased. Today, these production units have been privatized and are contributing to the development of the country. Currently, the production of the country, which was of 12000 tons per year, is around 3000 tons.

The country was once the world's largest producer of cocoa, says Antonio Dias, director of CECAB, Cooperative of Production and Exportation of Organic Cocoa and former Minister of Agriculture of S. Tomé.

But if the volume is not so great, the quality can compensate. Sao Tome produces a chocolate, recognized internationally as one of the best in the world. One of the responsible is the Italian Claudio Corallo investing in small-scale production of chocolate which takes his name that, since 2002, manufactures and sells luxury chocolate made with cocoa from his plantations and recognized internationally.

Even today cacao is about 90% or more of the total value of exports. According to the economist Adelino Castelo David, former Minister and former Governor of the Central Bank, "the cocoa exported value was always higher than that of services until 1992, when the situation began to reverse itself until the increase of services, which includes travel and tourism, which are growing gradually". Today a large share of employment in the agricultural sector is in cocoa.

There could have been made a "certain negotiation with the economic part of independence", but the plantations were abandoned, "then had to do a take by force", said economist Jorge Coelho, 56 years, former candidate to President of the Republic. "With the nationalization of the economy, all cocoa production was in the hand of the State. But the State tried to manage centrally cacao production and was inefficient", believes.

Cocoa was and may again be the Sao Tome oil, its greatest source of wealth, but over 40 years the production almost died, stresses the artist Kwame de Souza. "We forgot to create a company around the cocoa" and that communities living on agriculture, impoverishing the country so impoverished, relying on foreign aid.

In 2014, cocoa's sale netted $9 million, representing 93.9% of the exports of agricultural products. However, it is still necessary to bet on quality and not on quantity.

Sao Tome represents a "drop in the ocean" for cocoa production (Côte d'Ivoire produces over 1.5 million tons) and, therefore, has to bet on quality. "This is the bet that's being done in order to be the first producer in cocoa's quality; even in international markets there are niches and placing the right bets I'm convinced they can contribute a little bit more for the economy", stresses Adelino Castelo.

"In fact, it's necessary that the government places bets, for instance in quality cocoa, avoiding super production, and investing in the creation of factory facilities which could transform cocoa into chocolate. There is some homework to be done", he resumes.

LOOKING FOR INVESTMENT

The Sao Tome Government is mobilizing financial resources for structuring projects, particularly in the areas of port and airport, tourism, services and transport.

"We are a country extremely dependent on international aid, we're trying to reorient projects and seek to increase the volume of aid," explains the Sao Tome Prime Minister, Patrice Trovoada.

Sao Tome's responsible wants some kind of marriage between private investment in public-private partnerships in these areas and the support of the international community in overcoming what considers "weaknesses", in particular the fight against extreme poverty, corruption, justice improvement, public health, and quality of education.

Between the structuring projects, is the extension of the runway and the modernization of the international airport of Sao Tome and the deep-water port.

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