One year after the impressive ‘coconut festival’
JUST over one year ago the first ever Coconut Festival in Guyana was held at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre (October 21 – 23, 2016 and it was a resounding success.
The idea for such a festival was a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Business – Department of Tourism – and the Ministry of Agriculture, with support from the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
As part of the activities, there was a two-day conference aimed at re-educating Guyanese about the diverse benefits of the coconut fruit focusing on its economic diversification and multipurpose use, while heightening awareness and boosting the local Agro-tourism sector.
Roadmaps for the Coconut Industry Development
One of the significant aspects of the festival was a presentation on the major issues of the industry, which was identified by Mr Tommaso Ferretti, Representative of the International Trade Centre.
Mr Ferretti explained that the International Trade Centre (ITC) is a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation and that they implement projects and are developing value chains in multiple countries around the world. He said that currently, in the Caribbean, in nine countries, they are implementing a partnership with CARDI in the EU funded projects looking at the Coconut Sector/Industry.
Three countries were chosen from the nine as focus countries for implementation: Guyana, Jamaica and Dominican Republic.
The purpose of this programme, he said, was to analyse and conceive the main issues involved in the Coconut Industry within the countries involved in the programme and to propose a framework for implementation, addressing these issues in a holistic way by looking at the whole value chain.
“The main focus of ITC in developing and implementing this project is sustainability of the value chain, not just from the traditional perspective that is more on the buyer’s side but also at the interest of local producers and processors to bring benefits to all players in the Coconut Industry. Hence, the involvement of the government and all local institutions working in the project countries is crucial,” the ITC representative said.
He had then further underscored the point that the ITC should seek to ensure that the use of the EU funding in the programme is focused on sustainable development of value chains, while together with its partner CARDI, rely on the technical aspect and the most competent ways on the production side of the industry, in which the demand for coconuts is high.
“The potential of the Coconut Industry is huge and benefits are available for parties from all sectors. However, to exploit these opportunities there must be synergy created among private sector, public sector, research, technical actors and alignment of resources, objectives and targets,” Mr Ferretti had remarked in his roadmap presentation.
He said that it is with this philosophy that ITC is implementing work at the Regional and International levels through the facilitation of documents such as the Roadmap in Guyana. This, he said, has a very powerful role, bringing at the same table all the actors to make the coconut sector better for all.
He had said that opportunities like the Coconut Festival are very important from ITC’s perspective, where knowledge, passion to make change, and experiences about the Coconut Industry can be shared.
Moving leaps and bounds
In an invited comment, Dr Homenauth, Chief Executive Officer of the National Agricultural Research and extension Institute (NAREI), who had also played a role in the coconut festival and continues to do significant work in this field, told the Guyana Chronicle:
“The industry continues to make leaps and bounds as we continue to develop the roadmap which was officialized in 2016. The roadmap for the coconut industry was a joint effort of both the public and private sectors and has been adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture.”
In an effort to summarise some of the ongoing initiatives being undertaken in the coconut industry, Dr Homenauth said that coconut continues to be our major non-traditional export; exports which amount to US$5M annually.
He said that coconut water is now being exported in larger quantities to the Caribbean by Henvil farms and Afro Alfonso. The rooster brand, hydrate and others are very popular locally; Rooster being a recent addition to the local market.
Dr Homenauth said that while it was projected that 5,000 acreages of coconuts would have been cultivated by 2020, it is now anticipated that that amount will be surpassed.
“There is an increasing demand for planting materials. As such nurseries have been established at Mon Repos, Wakenaam, Charity and Hope Estate. These have the capacity to produce 50, 000 seedlings annually. This will satisfy about 800 acres annually. Private farmers have also begun their own seedling production,” he said.
The CEO told the Pepperpot Magazine that a new company – Pomeroon Trading Inc. has taken over the abandoned Stoll estate in the Pomeroon. “I believe this is the largest single estate in the country. They are currently rehabilitating and replanting 3000 trees monthly,” he explained.
Intercropping is described by some as the ‘companion’ planting method of growing one crop alongside another – in this case, coconut along with one or more other plants. It is said that the purpose behind intercropping is to increase yields by doubling up on available growing space and at the same time being more economically sound, in that while waiting for the coconuts to grow, other crops can be grown, which would make farming more viable, while placing the livelihood of the farmer on more sound economic stability.
Dr Homenauth said intercropping is being promoted on new, as well as existing plantations. Some of the intercrops identified include cassava, bananas, blackpepper and ginger.
At the same time, “We continue to provide training and support to the management of the red palm mite; Demo farms are being established at Clonbrook, Hague, Wakenaam and Pomeroon,” he said
With regards to farmer characterisation, the ITC continues to provide meaningful support, Dr Homenauth said. He explained that they are currently involved in a study on this topic here in Guyana. He then described ‘farmer characterisation’ as a measurement tool developed to understand and monitor smallholder farmer production systems, constraints, decision-making models and priorities.
This survey, he said is focused on coconut farmers’ productive and commercialisation systems with particular attention to crops diversification and intercropping. Both agricultural and social aspects are being surveyed at the farmer and household levels.
A major facility will be operationalised at Marudi in 2018. This emphasise value added products such as virgin coconut oil, activated carbon, coir, cocopeat and others…an estimated 100 000 nuts could be processed daily.
Dr Homenauth told the Pepperpot Magazine that NAREI is intimately involved in all of the activities mentioned.