The new Board of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Foundation (NAREI) was charged Tuesday by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha to pay special attention to developing strategies to boost Guyana’s coconut industry. This, like the announcement in November 2020 – that Guyana will join the membership of the International Coconut Community (ICC) as the Government develops plans to increase the growing of this crop nationwide – is welcoming.
The coconut industry is one that could be a money spinner for the country. Already, even in its neglected state, coconut is the third major crop cultivated in Guyana, after rice and sugar cane. This industry can be one that could produce scores of by-products, which are in demand for export as well as local consumption. There is now a growing demand for the coconut and its by-products worldwide.
Coconut oil, formerly incorrectly labeled as high cholesterol, is now considered among the best cooking oils, many consumers prefer it to olive oil and canola.
Most of the old coconut-growing families that had large estates have gone out of business. In the Pomeroon area, for example, there are only a few producers left. As a matter of fact, one of the largest producers in Laluni, Haresh Tewari, only on Wednesday reminded the industry that employment can be provided to community residents. This particular farmer has plans to treat a million coconut trees.
The economic benefits of the industry should be widely disseminated, as the many profitable by-products that could easily be produced should be made known to the public, as well as the markets available producers.
It may be recalled that an Indian coconut expert, Dr Shivarama Reddy, came to Guyana some years ago to work with NARI and local farmers to explore ways in which the coconut industry could be revived, and to look at potential markets for the product . . In addition, a position paper by NARI outlined three main areas of intervention to assist in the coconut industry: increasing the productivity and production potential of the sector; assess the state of Guyana’s coconut oil industry and its future, and consider possible support mechanisms; and explore other coconut-derived products for their value-adding and export potential. Nevertheless, over the years, the industry seemed to have contracted. Coconut oil has largely been replaced by foreign imports. Dried coconuts are still exported, but in much smaller quantities than before. Today, a great part of coconut production is used to provide coconut water. One local producer exports the goods to Trinidad for canning. The cans do not refer to its Guyanese origin. An infrastructure of international packaging standards already exists in Guyana. For example, the Beharry Group, which has supplied a number of high quality packaging products to the local and export markets.
The coconut industry could become very lucrative within the next three or four years. This can be achieved if suitable lands are leased to prospective farmers, intensive agricultural extension services are provided, as well as soft loans and marketing audit. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Lands and Surveys Commission, with the help of experts, should be able to find good coconut-growing lands and advertise for suitable participants. Unlike in the past, when there have been talks about the huge production, giving the public optimistic hopes that were multiplied but never realized, it is time to devote serious effort to reviving the industry. This industry has huge potential for expansion and development, especially as it relates to processing and value-added products. Guyana could massively increase its earnings from exports in this industry.

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