Analysis and News

Coconut industry earns 5.3 million USD from exports between January and June

BY GEOCAP's Contributor: Navendra Seoraj

Nestled in the corner of the agriculture sector, the coconut industry is often overshadowed by the successes of sugar and rice, leaving many unaware that coconuts are actually the third most exported agricultural commodity in Guyana.

Though under recognised, the industry is by no means unproductive, and this is evidenced by its performance during the first half of this year.

Based on information from the Ministry of Agriculture, the industry raked in 5,319,868 USD from the export of coconuts and coconut water. A further breakdown of the statistics shows that coconut water earned 977,138 USD while coconuts raked in 4,342,730 USD.

The earnings from the industry represent a significant improvement when compared to the accumulated revenue of 7 million USD in 2017.

In a recent address to the International Coconut Community (ICC), Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, said that the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Agriculture and support from the ICC, is keen on making Guyana a major coconut producer in this part of the world and also adequately meeting both local and export demands for coconut and its by-products.

“We see our coconut industry as a major income earner and a stimulant for development and prosperity for our farmers and stakeholders involved in this vital non- traditional sector of our economy,” Minister Mustapha related.

The local coconut industry comprises approximately 1,800 farmers with about 24,000 acres under cultivation in regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Ten. The main varieties of coconut grown in Guyana are Jamaica Tall, Panama Tall, Malayan Dwarf Green, Malayan Dwarf Yellow, Malayan Dwarf Orange, Suriname Browne and Bastard.

From the industry’s average annual production of 92 million nuts, a significant amount is exported mainly to Barbados, Trinidad and Dominican Republic.

Recognising that there is still room for significant improvements in this industry, Minister Mustapha told the ICC: “The important sector, I must emphasise strongly, has tremendous potential for both improvement and expansion. With technical assistance and guidance from internationally recognised organisations like the ICC, there is no doubt in my mind that Guyana’s coconut industry performance can be greatly enhanced to better serve needs of all stakeholders.”

There are reports that the global demand for coconut is increasing by more than 10 percent with each passing year.

“With the current high demand for coconuts and its value added products, Guyana has a robust plan to replicate and where possible, scale up coconut production. The potential benefits that can be derived from coconut production have opened the eyes of farmers to the commercial opportunities that can support sustainability and lead to positive change,” Minister Mustapha posited.

Work, he said, is ongoing to change both the mindset of farmers and the methods they use to produce speculatively without guaranteed markets. In his view, “speculative production” is a common mistake found in many countries’ agricultural sectors.

It is for this reason, that the Ministry of Agriculture plans to accelerate sustainable growth, productivity and employment by supporting agriculture productivity – in this case, the coconut industry.

Over the past two months, the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) has increased support being directed to the coconut industry.

The institute went as far as to identify individuals from within its research departments to examine the current state of the industry and give suggestions for its improvement.

A Coconut Development Unit was proposed as a statutory body to be established under the Ministry of Agriculture and NAREI for the development of the coconut industry in Guyana, with focus on increased productivity and product diversification.

It is an established fact, locally, that producing high value coconut products, establishing seed farms, replanting of senile palms, pest and disease management, forming synergies among industries, farmers, and governments, as well as researching more innovative technologies are required to ensure the sustainability of the coconut industry.

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