As people become more health conscious worldwide, they are recognizing the benefits of coconut products, particularly with coconut oil and water, the industry has become a billion-dollar one.
And Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Barton Clarke said for Barbados to capitalize on this, some fundamental questions must be answered.
“What is the market, how big is it, and where is our competition? Which products will we focus on? Will it be water, cosmetics, promoting cuisine using coconuts or coconut oil? We must also determine what we will do with the waste, and where we will source raw materials if our local supply cannot keep up with the market demand,” he said.
Clarke added that there is a need to establish health standards and “ensure that wayside coconut vendors learn them so that what they are offering to us and our guests will comply with health regulations”.
He made the comments recently as he addressed a forum for stakeholders in the coconut industry at the Savannah Hotel, where he quoted statistics from United Kingdom-based consultancy firm Zenith Global that show coconut water dominating the global “alternative waters” market – accounting for 96 per cent of volume and 86 per cent of value in 2016 – and that significant positive growth is forecast for coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut flour and virgin coconut oil.
Chief Agricultural Officer Lennox Chandler, who also addressed the forum, said the Ministry of Agriculture will do its part to boost the local industry by offering rebates and incentives for farmers, acting as a regulator to ensure standards are met, and carrying out research on the crop.
“All too often we rely on statistics and other information coming from outside and make our decisions based on that, without doing our own local surveys,” he said, adding that the process must be “underpinned by science and technology, not legend or hearsay”.