Dr. Arlington Chesney, Executive Director, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), said the regional coconut production has slumped over the years because scientists back then had blamed coconut oil for some health problems. He said, it has since been proven as totally untrue.
Dr Chesney was addressing the opening of a workshop on Coconut Industry Development for the Caribbean: Towards a Shared Vision and Road Map, at the 12th Caribbean Week of Agriculture in Guyana in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development (CTA). We hope that we would chart the future for the resurgence of the coconut industry in the Caribbean, he said.
According to Dr Chesney, the Caribbean should develop its own plant material by certifying laboratories rather than plants coming from outside the region. Without a new injection of plant material, we would be doing the same old thing the same old bad way, he said. He also said the Caribbean should turn to India for coconut harvesting technologies.
Guyanas Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy warned that the Coconut Industry Roadmap would be useless if steps were not taken to organize it along the lines of rice and sugar industries. Noting that coconut water is a real threat to the beverage industry, he said it was time for old coconut plantations to be replanted with the varieties suitable for optimum production of water, oil or other products. If we are going to make this industry a robust industry, then we have to start with the infrastructure and the plantations, he added.
Ramsammy called for a research-driven industry rather than one that is operating on the basis of ad-hocism. He recommended that the Caribbean tap into the fertilizer producing nations of Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela to help solve the fertilizer problem. Other challenges he identified include the emergence of pests and climate change.
With assistance from the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Mexico, Guyana has established a focal point on the coconut industry.
CTA Director, Michael Hailu hoped that the workshop would see the sharing of experiences among the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean coconut producing nations. We want to make sure that we respond to the needs of the ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific), especially in the area of coconut growing, he said.
Mr Hailu said a key was to ensure that stakeholders are involved in the discussions as a critical step towards ownership of the needs assessment titled Development of the Coconut Industry in the Caribbean by Landell Mills Consultants. He said it was important to come up with specific low cost building of national and regional networks and then look at a medium term approach and discuss the institutional mechanisms.
The workshop was co-hosted by CTA, CARDI and the University of the West Indies. This is the first time ministers and other officials from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Dominican Republic and the European Union are attending the CWA.