Co­conut out­put to quadru­ple by 2025

-re­gional pro­gramme ready­ing lo­cal in­dus­try play­ers for move to value-added out­put

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With a resur­gence in the de­mand for co­conut prod­ucts glob­ally, and con­se­quent in­ter­est from in­vestors, Guyana is an­tic­i­pated to dou­ble its cur­rent co­conut pro­duc­tion within a few years, and quadru­ple it by 2025.

Ray­mond Trotz, Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre (ITC), dur­ing a press brief­ing at the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry yes­ter­day, re­lated that ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tional Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Ex­ten­sion In­sti­tute (NAREI), there are cur­rently over 25,000 acres of co­conut trees within Guyana. He stated that ad­vice from GO-In­vest in­di­cates that in­vestors are in­ter­ested in ex­pand­ing that num­ber by about 27 and a half thou­sand acres over a num­ber of years, and based on their pro­jec­tion, to about 100,000 acres over a tenyear pe­riod, as com­pared to the 2015 fig­ure of 24,000 acres.

Trotz stated that the re­newal of in­ter­est for co­conut prod­ucts has led to in­vestor in­ter­est lo­cally, although he opined that the at­trac­tion could also be at­trib­uted to the suc­cess of the 2016 co­conut fes­ti­val, which he de­scribed as “awak­en­ing the sleep­ing giant.”

“We got a huge in­flux of in­vestors query­ing how they can get in­volved in de­vel­op­ing the pro­gramme in this sphere… our chal­lenge is to lay the foun­da­tion to make that pos­si­ble…We’ve got a lot of work to do to meet that ca­pac­ity; to ex­pand and meet that ca­pac­ity to meet the in­dus­try needs,” Trotz re­lated.

Un­der the Euro­pean Union (EU)/African, Caribbean, Pa­cific (ACP) Sec­re­tariat-funded pro­gramme ‘Co­conut In­dus­try Devel­op­ment for the Caribbean (CIDC),’ Guyanese farm­ers have been ben­e­fit­ting from train­ing re­lated to mar­ket­ing, food safety, ex­ten­sion sup­port, co­conut pro­duc­tion devel­op­ment and busi­ness train­ing.

Guyana is one of 11 Caribbean coun­tries to ben­e­fit from this ini­tia­tive, which was im­ple­mented lo­cally in 2015. The first phase of the pro­gramme will be com­pleted this year. The pro­gramme is be­ing ad­min­is­trated by the ITC, in as­so­ci­a­tion with its im­ple­ment­ing part­ner, the Caribbean Agri­cul­tural Re­search and Devel­op­ment In­sti­tute (CARDI).

CARDI Coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dr Cyril Roberts ex­plained that be­cause of the at­ten­tion now be­ing paid to the value and use­ful­ness of co­conuts, those in­volved in the in­dus­try in the past have been re­turn­ing to it, in­vest­ing their time, money and ef­forts, and see­ing re­turns as a re­sult.

Roberts said that in de­vel­op­ing the lo­cal in­dus­try, they are striv­ing to have farm­ers utilise more of the raw ma­te­rial through pro­cess­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided yes­ter­day, as of 2015, 15% of the co­conut prod­uct ex­ported by Guyana was co­pra (dried ker­nels), while 9% ac­counted for crude co­conut oil and only 2% made up non-tra­di­tional prod­ucts, such as co­conut wa­ter.

Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion

“Cur­rently, Guyana is seen as the sup­ply bas­ket to the re­gion of co­conuts…fresh, un­pro­cessed co­conuts, mainly… the rec­om­men­da­tions of the stud­ies that have come out of this pro­gramme…the Global Value Chain Anal­y­sis, sug­gests that Guyana tar­gets the co­conut wa­ter in­dus­try, which is grow­ing in the United States by 25% year-onyear growth. It also sug­gests tar­get­ing value ad­di­tion in-coun­try through the in­vest­ment in pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties. ITC’s role in col­lab­o­rat­ing with CARDI is to fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­ac­tions be­tween dif­fer­ent play­ers in the value chain, whether that be in­vestors, com­pa­nies, farm­ers, pro­ces­sors and so forth,” Ben Mor­ri­son, ICT In­ter­na­tional Con­sul­tant said yes­ter­day at the press con­fer­ence.

“For ex­am­ple, we have dif­fer­ent in­vestors now in­vest­ing up­wards of US$9 mil­lion in Guyana to process dif­fer­ent co­conut prod­ucts, so this is the di­rec­tion that we would be pro­mot­ing. It’s to di­ver­sify the ex­port base in terms of the range of prod­ucts and also the ex­port des­ti­na­tions,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to Mor­ri­son, 1% of the global mar­ket sup­ply of co­conuts comes from the Caribbean. Trotz re­lated that the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, “the most ad­vanced in value adding” as it re­lates to fruit pro­duc­tion, sources about 50% of its co­conut sup­ply from the Caribbean, with Guyana be­ing the largest supplier.

In ex­plain­ing the coun­try’s progress in terms of prod­uct di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, Trotz ref­er­enced lo­cal com­pany Pre­ci­sion, which, while hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced a set­back be­cause of equip­ment mal­func­tion, is ex­pected to be back in op­er­a­tion by this De­cem­ber, and pro­jected to have a de­mand rate that will ri­val the Do­mini­can Repub­lic ex­port sup­ply.

Trotz listed re­fined, bleached, de­odorised co­conut oil; vir­gin co­conut oil; and co­conut char­coal as be­ing among Pre­ci­sion’s prod­uct range.

“…Their de­mand rate is go­ing to be for 700,000 nuts per week, which is an av­er­age of about 100,000 nuts per day. So what will hap­pen by then, is most of what is be­ing ex­ported to the Do­mini­can Repub­lic will be largely con­sumed here, lo­cally,” he con­cluded.

Lead Farmer model

Mean­while, as an ini­tia­tive of the pro­gramme, the “Lead Farmer Model” was re­cently im­ple­mented as a means of dis­sem­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion and tech­nol­ogy among those in­volved in the sec­tor. So far, 10 farm­ers across four re­gions—re­gions Two, Four, Five and Ten—have been se­lected to serve in that ca­pac­ity.

Those Lead Farm­ers are tasked with pass­ing on best in­dus­try prac­tices to those dubbed “Sec­ond Ring Farm­ers.” There are be­tween 10 and 20 Sec­ond Ring Farm­ers to each Lead Farmer.

“The im­por­tant thing about the Lead Farmer Model is they’re cat­a­lysts to the busi­ness al­liance for­ma­tion be­tween them­selves as Lead Farm­ers, be­tween the farm­ers in their vicin­ity, be­tween the buy­ers, the pro­ces­sors, the ex­porters and the re­search. Th­ese guys are the satel­lites or fo­cal points within their lo­cal­i­ties to ef­fect change. So, it’s a very strin­gent process and the Lead Farm­ers have a range of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and com­mit­ments that they have signed with the over­all pro­gramme…,” Mor­ri­son ex­plained.

Mor­ri­son also pointed out that the Lead Farmer Model is the start­ing point to build­ing up the coun­try’s sup­ply base, the farm­ers’ pro­duc­tiv­ity and the value chain of the prod­ucts.

“We im­prove the ef­fi­ciency of the pro­cesses to en­sure more value ad­di­tion in-coun­try and then we also ad­vise pol­icy in or­der to be sup­port­ive of th­ese de­vel­op­ments in the in­dus­try,” he stated. He em­pha­sised the need to adopt a “multi-prod­uct, mul­ti­mar­ket dy­namic” where farm­ers are not “overly re­liant on one prod­uct or one des­ti­na­tion.” As a re­sult, it was re­lated that the train­ing be­ing de­liv­ered is not fo­cused only on co­conut pro­duc­tion, but on other crops that will assist the farm­ing sys­tem.

As part of the ca­pac­ity build­ing ef­forts, there are 16 train­ing ses­sions planned for the pe­riod March to July, in the ar­eas of food safety in co­conut wa­ter pro­duc­tion, in­te­grated pest man­age­ment, busi­ness train­ing, train­ing in co­conut selec­tion and best hus­bandry prac­tices, train­ing to meet in­ter­na­tional mar­ket stan­dards, and for the cre­ation of value-added prod­ucts from co­conuts.

Co­or­di­na­tors of the Co­conut In­dus­try Devel­op­ment for the Caribbean (CIDC) pro­gramme. From left: Cyril Roberts, CARDI Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive; Ben Mor­ri­son, In­ter­na­tional Trade Cen­tre con­sul­tant; Mau­rice Wil­son, Re­gional Co­or­di­na­tor of the project; and Ray­mond Trotz, Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor.

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