(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The vast potential of coconut industry in the Caribbean came under the microscope as the activities of the 12th edition of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) continued at the Guyana International Conference Centre (GICC) in Georgetown.
The CWA is being held under the theme `Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development’.
A workshop on the coconut industry was held on Monday and Tuesday. It was organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Stakeholders explored the growth of the coconut industry following a slump; the varied uses of coconut; opportunities that are available to push the industry; and challenges to the industry including the lack of market research on the use of the products, and pests and diseases.
The versatility of the product generated healthy discussion with participants expounding on the use of the shell/ husk as compost, and for generating electricity; the flesh to make coconut oil and milk; the water from the nuts; and the use of the `jelly, once a challenge for entrepreneurs.
“We need to organize the industry; we need to have people working closer together …We are not looking at coconut only for coconut oil as we did 10 to 15 years ago. There are new products: coconut water, which used to be a `by-the-way’ drink, is now a full-fledged industrial drink…We see more of the by-products being utilized …We’ve also seen the movement of the products – which is a good thing – from Guyana to Trinidad, from the production area to the bigger market,” Dr. Arlington Chesney, Executive Director of CARDI told representatives of the media Tuesday morning.
Some of the participants, themselves engaged in the industry as farmers and/or producers of various coconut-based products on a small to medium scale, were of the opinion that there was much work to be done to move the industry forward. Farmers, they pointed out, were critical to the success of the industry and needed to be recognized for their hard work.
The workshop was one of several that are being hosted concurrently at the Conference Centre. They are being held ahead of the formal opening ceremony of the CWA on Wednesday 9 October.
This year, for the first time, the CWA has attracted participation from Haiti, as well as Canada, and Pacific Islands, Tonga and Samoa.