Launching a local line of coconut and pineapple products, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud yesterday said there is a hope that importing Caribbean territories would be more considerate with regard to the standards imposed on goods entering Guyana.
Persaud made mention of this as he was addressing stakeholders when New Sococo Enterprise launched their line of coconut water and pineapple products at the company’s Coldingen Industrial Estate plant yesterday.
The company’s management said they intended to capitalize on the Cricket World Cup hence the choice to launch their products at this time. The products launched were Anacoco Coconut Milk, Anapine Pineapple Slices, Anapine Pineapple Crush, Sococo Coco Cream, and Sococo Coco Milk which are all canned. The other products are energy drinks called Island Boost, which is produced in pouches and cans in a coconut water flavour, coconut water and pineapple and coconut water and passion fruit.
The products would be available locally at an approximate cost of $70 for the drink, $170 for the canned drink and $200 for the other canned pineapple and coconut products.
The minister was at the time referring to the frustrations faced by various potential exporters in light of government’s efforts to improve on exports. “There is growing interest,” in Guyana’s products and the country has the means to supply the Caribbean market, he said.
However, “many times we are frustrated” by the food safety requirements and suggested that Caricom territories should be “more considerate and make things easier.” At the same time he said he is not advising that producers betray the promotion of safe and quality products.
Persaud said that he is also disgusted to see coconut products from destinations that take 24 hours to reach by air displayed on supermarket shelves here. He said later that “every single Guyanese” could assist with expanding the agro-sector by purchasing products made here.
He noted that agro-processing has always been a missing link in the drive to have a thriving agro-sector. Critical in this area he acknowledged was the high cost of energy, noting that with efforts underway to provide a cheap source of electricity there is hope for a spurt in growth of the industry.
Nevertheless there still exists opportunities for overcoming existing challenges to produce better downstream items to penetrate the US and European markets.
Chaitnarine Brijnandan, a partner in the second coming of Sococo Enterprises, said they were working on the project for a long time. He noted that two years ago when they took over the building and machinery from the previous owners the company only produced coconut cream.
He also made reference to the tendency of Guyanese residing here to consider imported products as superior while overseas-based Guyanese recognized that products from Guyana were of higher quality than they were accustomed to there.
Manjula Brijmohan, Managing Director of Sococo, stated that all over the Caribbean people were looking for Guyanese products. She said the products have a shelf life of eight to 12 months without refrigeration.
Orders from T&T, Jamaica
Brijmohan revealed that the company has already received orders from Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, among others. Noting that the establishment still has some way to go, she said they were placing some emphasis on improving lab facilities, stabilizing the company and becoming export-friendly in terms of quality and quantity.
National Agricultural Research Institute Director (NARI) Dr Oudho Homenauth in his remarks said there are two things he would suggest for lowering the countries’ import bill – that is “consuming what we produce and adding value.” Additionally, he said, because of the company’s focus there should be positive spin-offs in the coconut industry.