Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, sees the coconut industry as providing substantial benefits to the economy, by generating revenue and creating employment.
He made these comments while addressing participants at the Coconut Plenary Session at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which started today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).
However, he noted that there are not sufficient nuts on the island to meet the demand for coconut water, with the result being that some nuts are harvested young.
“If we can increase production to such an extent to exceed demand for coconut water, there is further potential for income generation through export of water and development of value-added products, such as oils, milk, flour, soaps and craft items,” he said.
Stressing the importance of the coconut industry and linking the consumption of coconut water to better health, he said coconut water is low in calories, naturally free of fat and cholesterol, and contains a significant amount of potassium. These characteristics he pointed out could help in the battle against chronic non-communicable diseases.
Mr. Weir also linked the importance of the coconut industry to tourism, he said the services coconut vendors provided was important.
He added that the Ministry, along with Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), between June 2017 and September 2018, had been conducting training workshops that assisted vendors with the necessary skills and best practices associated with harvesting, handling and processing with specific emphasis on health, sanitation and food safety issues.
He disclosed that the Ministry and CARDI, along with other collaborating institutions, were working on other projects, including a coconut shredder which crushes both the green and dry coconut husks for better disposal to assist in lessening the unsightly scene created when local vendors ply their trade. He mentioned that the dry husk was being utilized by anthuriums and orchids growers.
The entities are also looking at the benefits of using integrated pest management strategies to control and manage the coconut mite and intercropping strategies to improve productivity and yields as a means to generate additional income on coconut plantations.
Minister Weir also encouraged participants to have engaging and active discussions whereby a holistic approach to the development of the industry could be strategized; where all stakeholders across the value chain e.g. input suppliers, growers, vendors, processors, support services etc., would work together to ensure a strong, resilient and productive coconut industry is built.
CARDI’s Country Representative to Barbados, Ansari Hosein, highlighted that the global coconut industry earns revenue between US$9 and 10 billion. He said every year 70 billion coconuts were being harvested; 10 billion of those for coconut water consumption; yet the amount was not enough to meet the demand. Therefore, he said there is potential to grow the region’s industry and bridge the gap between the demand and supply.
The business potential, building capacity and value added that could be derived from the coconut industry within the Caribbean region was the main focus of the plenary session hosted by CARDI.