Dear Friends & Colleagues,
When I came back to cocoa in 2015 (after a short 3 year vacation in the world of dairy), I could never have imagined all that we have achieved together as an industry & association since then. We have had difficult times for sure over the last few years but it is unarguable that the CAA is currently at an unprecedented position of prestige and influence thanks to all of your efforts in this relatively short time frame.
I joined the CAA fray shortly after joining Cargill in April 2015, and it seems almost poetic that I will be exiting both entities simultaneously this April. Back then, the CAA was at a crossroads, we had lost momentum & leverage as an association in trying to create an Asian cocoa quality benchmark with the fall in Asian cocoa production, and quite possibly our sense of purpose somewhat as an association with many a divided interest.
The first exco I was a part of under the stewardship of Richard Fahey worked hard to find the common grounds for our association to thrive, to find a new purpose and vision for the CAA – it wasn’t easy or straightforward; we had several well-intentioned foibles for every inspirational idea that worked out for sure – those hours that we spent debating the merits of a coffee table book will never be gained back unfortunately…
Ultimately, it was all worth it. I had a front row view of the success & failures but more importantly of what made us as an association tick. Coming in as a “Covid-Chairman”, I’m immensely proud of the momentum we have kept in what has arguably been the most difficult time in our living memory. The growth in our membership and activities for members was at its peak over the last 2 years – we’ve pulled off educational seminars both virtual and in-person to the benefit of hundreds of our member companies & their staff. Thanks to our recent collaborations with reputable institutions like SMU & CILT, we now offer our members opportunities to upskill their staff in key areas like data analytics & supply chain maangement that affect them in their businesses supporting the cocoa & chocolate industry.
While our first CAA international cocoa conference in 2017 was a resounding success, our most recent attempt in September 2022 knocked it absolutely out of the park, breaking all kinds of records in terms of attendance and revenues for our fledgling association. More importantly, it put the CAA and all its members firmly in the international and regional spotlight as a vibrant and influential community within the cocoa & chocolate world. Critical collaborative partners like Enterprise Singapore also gave us an “A+” and more importantly, have pledged to back us on further initiatives that I’m sure the next exco will help drive that will bring even more benefits to our membership.
I’ve been asked by many of you on how I look back on my time with the CAA. I think the word that comes to mind is “fun”. No, it hasn’t been a bed of roses throughout but having reflected recently, I will remember and miss most the meals, coffees, happy hours and karaokes that I was fortunate to share with many of you during my time as chair.
Thank you all for being such good sports and colleagues to me, for giving me counsel whenever I needed it, for throwing your support behind whatever initiatives our exco or sub-committees came up with. I’ll always be proud of everything that we have built together.
The future is seemingly fraught with many challenges but I’m confident that the new exco and of course our ever-present association COO, Shirley, will have more than what it takes to bring the CAA to even greater heights!
Cocoa (& chocolate) forever!