What’s the Next Step For the Caribbean Coconut Industry?
By the Caribbean Journal staff
After a slump, the Caribbean’s coconut industry seems to be rebounding. But what’s the next step for an industry that stretches across the region?
Industry stakeholders met in Guyana this week during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture to discuss the “vast potential” of Caribbean coconuts, holding a workshop on Monday and Tuesday organized by the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Cooperation, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the University of the West Indies.
The group addressed the recent growth of the industry, the varied uses of coconut and opportunities to push the industry, which still faces challenges like pests and diseases and a lack of market research on the use of its byproducts.
Coconuts can be used for a multitude of purposes, from converting the husks into compost and, thereby, into electricity; turning flesh into coconut oil and milk and the use of coconut jelly.
“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,” said Arlington Chesney, executive director of CARDI. “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.”
Chesney said there were also more coconuts moving across the CARICOM market, from Guyana to Trinidad, for example.
This year’s CWA has attracted participation from across the Caribbean (including Haiti for the first time) and as far as Tonga and Samoa in the Pacific.