Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud said government is upping its efforts to diversify the coconut industry and will invest $9M in the development of appropriate technology to bring this plan to fruition.
He made the announcement at a meeting convened on Monday to discuss developing a coconut water processing plant.
A Government Information Agency (GINA) press release said a study was completed with assistance from a coconut expert from India, Dr Shivarama Reddy, two years prior to the recent surge in the regional and international market demand for coconut and its by-products.
The minister noted that the revitalisation plan is expected to boost production and enhance quality since the product can be used as a base for others.
“This will see farmers’ needs addressed and cultivation and market bases expanded,” he said.
“We also recognised in our country that we have a number of coconut estates which were abandoned while the others were not properly kept and so we convened a meeting with some of those owners and others who were interested in different parts of the country and we came up with a plan looking at all areas, from technical assistance to infrastructural works,” he said.
Persaud noted that in the 70s and 80s coconut and its by-products were perceived to contribute to high cholesterol levels and as such there had been a moving away from the industry. The minister said that several coconut estates had been abandoned or were left unkempt in different parts of the country.
“Even amongst ourselves in Guyana we still believe it’s bad to be consuming coconut related products particularly the oil that comes from coconut, but we have seen what has happened in terms of global trends and it did not only affect Guyana, but the coconut in Africa and Asia,” he said.
According to GINA, government aims to diversify the coconut industry by sourcing other by-products, rather than relying on the traditional exporting of nuts and copra. Guyana has since been receiving support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Indian government to revitalise the industry. To date, the nursery at Hope Estate has been restructured and the coconut water bottling plant will be completed shortly.
Persaud said that while government is concerned primarily about the export of coconut-based products; focus must be placed on diversifying and developing the industry with the help of modern technology.
In this regard, $9M is being invested and government will be working closely with the National Agricultural Research Institute in the programme.
“We have also been looking at the various varieties that are suitable and we will continue to pursue that, but there is lot of work to be done and recognise that and it is one that will continue to get support in the context of our diversification plan for the agriculture sector,” Persaud said.
According to GINA there are currently 24,000 hectares of coconut countrywide.