Coconut industry faces setbacks from limited land space, long maturity period
By Devina Samaroo
At a time when there are numerous opportunities to capitalise on huge global demand, the coconut industry is confronted with major challenges which are preventing the local sector from expanding.
Coconut is the leading nontraditional crop in Guyana, according to Head of the Private Sector Commission’s (PSC) Agriculture Sub-Committee, Rajindra Persaud who lamented the absence of incentives to support this burgeoning industry.
He told a gathering of business executives and government officials during the 2017 Business Summit on Wednesday that farmers need lands to expand the industry and better technology to implement cost-effective harvesting techniques and to produce value-added products.
“We need new plantations to boost our coconut industry. Presently we have only 24,000 hectares under coconut cultivation but most of these trees are like 20 to 50 years old. So we need to get new trees so we can get the maximum yield out of the land we cultivate on,” Persaud disclosed.
He said the government should make suitable lands available along with industry specific incentives to encourage expansion in the sector. He explained too that it takes approximately five years for the coconut plant to mature but this serves as dissuasion to budding entrepreneurs to invest in this potentially lucrative industry.
“You find that young entrepreneurs are very skeptical to invest there. They don’t have the patience,” Persaud stated.
According to the industry expert, there is a great need for cost-effective techniques for harvesting coconuts so that the operations can done on larger scales.
“You know, it is challenging when the tree gets tall, it is difficult for people to climb to harvest,” he said.
Persaud also highlighted that there are limited processing facilities so value-added production is restrictive. “We just export the product as it is,” he lamented, noting that there are numerous byproducts from coconut.
Some popular value-added products from coconut include perfumed soap and body oil which can come from the coconut oil; sweetened coconut, toasted coconut and other coconut snacks; craft from the coconut shells and branches; among others.
Persaud explained that there is a huge demand for coconut owing to its health benefits, and that high prices are offered both locally and internationally.
Last year, Guyana hosted its first Coconut Festival with the aim of promoting the use of this fruit. The two major coconut products manufactured here are all natural coconut water and virgin coconut oil.
Some local coconut enterprises are Original Juices coconut water at Charity, Pomeroon; Roosters Farm – new coconut water factory at Land of Plenty, Essequibo Coast; Ideal Life Virgin coconut oil at Hampton Court, Essequibo Coast; HenvilFarms Coconut water at Marlborough, Pomeroon River; and also the Pomeroon Oil Mill at Charity, Essequibo Coast.