A major research centre for the testing of diseases in cocoa variety types from across the world, remains in a state of abandonment in a remote area of land at Graeme Hall, Christ Church, almost a decade after its doors were closed.
The Cocoa Quarantine Station, which was owned and operated by the Cocoa Research Unit of the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, in Trinidad, was managed out of Barbados on behalf of Port-of-Spain.
Coordinator of the UN Global Biosafety Programme and former Professor of Plant Pathology at the UWI, Cave Hill, Leonard O’Garro, who was in charge of the centre, told Barbados TODAY that it was closed in 2004 after funding “dried up”. O’Garro said the facility collected cocoa varieties from different parts of the world to ensure they were not infected, before sending them on to Trinidad, which at the time had a cocoa industry.
“Rather than sending them directly to Trinidad, they would come through the quarantine station in Barbados,” noted the award-winning scientist.
He said “gene banks” were established in strategic countries around the world, and one was in Trinidad and Tobago. The researcher at the Cave Hill Campus explained that the locally-based laboratory facility, which was started in the 1960s, became too expensive to operate, considering too the “few” dollars that were coming in.
“So the decision was made to close it,” he added.
However, the professor pointed out that now St. Vincent was going back into cocoa production “there is talk about refurbishing the quarantine station here”.