Stakeholders address coconut industry’s sustainable development
The Ministry of Agriculture, the European Union (EU), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the International Trade Centre, along with local stakeholders, gathered at the Grand Coastal Inn today, to consider the sustainable development of the coconut industry in Guyana and the Caribbean.
The two day forum seeks to reposition the coconut industry in the Caribbean, to make it sustainable and well-developed. The participants examined the range of value added products, whilst the stakeholders considered its implementation.
George Jervis, Permanent Secretary (PS) Ministry of Agriculture, speaking to the gathering, charged them to bring out projects which the scientists never thought about before. He noted that coconut is most familiar to citizens of the Caribbean, and that it ranks with rice and sugar. PS Jervis noted too that dealing with every aspect of the value chain would bring it to the middle of the table.
Observing that whilst there were stories which indicated the diseases that could be contracted from the use of coconut and its by products, the PS noted that these were all a misinformation. He explained that these diseases could not be contracted from vegetable products.
The most important point for the road map he noted would be to certify planting, which would enable the proper growing of the trees. Jervis also noted the improvement of the management of pests, capacity building for characterising genetic resources, supporting research and development and improving the production efficiency, all targeting coconuts.
He also stressed on market intelligence, which he noted was part of the new knowledge which has surfaced. The PS also pointed out that with the local stakeholders moving the industry on the road to success, this has seen the placing of coconut products on local shelves, thus making it foolhardy to import these. He added that market intelligence would be helping in that direction.
In finance and business development, Jervis noted, the industry would be supported by the local banking sector. Supporting capacity building and export opportunity for development funding would also be another issue to be considered the PS observed.
With the help of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (ICCA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), CARDI, and bilateral cooperation between the Government of Guyana and Mexico, this would all be geared towards the value chain.
In 1997, whilst he was training in Malaysia, Jervis remembered that he saw the Malaysian dwarf species of the coconut plant being developed. This, he noted would help during the time of reaping, preventing the need for ladders or climbers to pick coconuts. He expressed the hope that research would lead the stakeholders in this direction.
The PS observed that the response of the stakeholders should also consider the economy and sharing the landscape which would help in the spread of expenses. This spread could be done with crops being grown and small ruminants being kept whilst the coconut crop is being grown, all on the same land. This, he noted, would lead to an efficient and attractive system which would allow the sharing of the expenses.
Head of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute Dr. Oudho Homenauth noted that whilst the focus was aimed at developing a roadmap, this was towards the market-led development of the coconut and its products sector. He observed that in 2013, a regional report revealed that the international market for coconut and its products had changed. This change included the fact that there is now a high demand for coconut products which include craft and coconut based food enhancers.
Dr. Homenauth also pointed out that whilst the study identified areas to be addressed, this has led to the identification of steps to be taken in the region for an open market for coconut and its products.
Meanwhile EU Ambassador to Guyana Robert Kopecky, pointed out that coconut oil and milk have been a boon worldwide. Kopecky also noted that this is essential to the Gross Domestic Product of countries in the Caribbean and also to health, safe nutrition and trade. He also pointed out that the food import bill in the Caribbean is $4B per annum which money could be reduced and be used in the coconut industry. He observed that the project is sustainable and is relevant to the population.
Coconut is very much in demand and Guyana has already gotten a lot of markets for this crop. The country has already seen by-products being made from it.