Mindful of the heavy and mounting expenditure required to meet the continually growing demand for imported coconut products, Jamaica is embarking on an initiative aimed at tripling the existing 40,000 acres of land under coconut cultivation over the next ten years.
The Caribbean Community island’s Coconut Industry Board recently prepared and submitted to the country’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries, for its support, a new strategic business and capital investment plan that envisages a J$3 billion public/private sector joint venture initiative based on what it envisages to be a likely huge increase in demand for coconut-based products, going forward.
Coconut cultivation apart, the plan envisages the development of factories for coconut water and sports drink production as well as virgin coconut oil production facilities.
In pursuit of its efforts to enhance the value of the country’s coconut sector, the Board has received funding from the European Union’s Caribbean Coconut Competitiveness Improvement project, which is being executed by CARDI.
Much of Jamaica’s demand for coconut-based products has traditionally been filled by imports and a recent report in the Gleaner newspaper states that the country’s Statistical Institute reports that in 2015 approximately $1.3 billion (US$11.4million) of coconuts and coconut by-products were imported to satisfy local demand.
Setting aside what the Gleaner quotes the Commodity Board as anticipating could be “an anticipated internal rate of return of 29.1 per cent,” it is also being estimated that the plan “could generate thousands of stable long-term jobs within the agricultural sector.”
Stabroek Business understands that the Jamaica Coconut Board is aiming to engage 2,000 new small farmers, medium-sized growers and local and overseas investors, in its quest to significantly expand crop acreages. Its strategic focus, it says, “is to position Jamaica as the leader in coconut seedlings, coconut production and value-added coconut products in the Caribbean.”
The Gleaner quotes Board Chairman Christopher Gentles as saying that Jamaica’s coconut industry is poised for significant growth as it (the Board) seeks to increase its nursery capacity. The Board, according to Giles, has also been asked to participate in other coconut-related initiatives in the Caribbean on account of its “extensive research and technical competence in disease control.” The Board is also quoted as saying that it is building its reputation “as an authority on the development of coconuts.”
The Jamaica Coconut Board, according to the Gleaner, manages two seed gardens and four nurseries with a total production capacity of 400,000 seedlings annually. Additionally, it provides a market for coconuts produced by small farmers