Government is pushing ahead with plans to develop a viable coconut industry here.
During the first in a series of stakeholder meetings at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic this morning, Chief Economist in the Ministry of Agriculture Suzette Edey-Babb told the gathering of mostly planters that the industry had the potential to generate substantial income.
However, she said Government was taking “a value chain approach” to its development “by meeting the players in each sector and finding out what they need, so that we can better develop policies to govern it”.
Currently, there are said to be over 60 coconut water vendors in Barbados.
And amid growing interest in planting the crop for commercial purposes, officials say more businesses are using coconut-derived products in their operations.
However, the Caribbean is faced with numerous challenges, including high input and labour costs.
This morning Ansari Hosein, the local representative for the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), also said the region’s aging population was a factor, so too its “limited coconut gene pool, lack of quality planting material, prevalence of diseases, inadequate research and development, and the lack of an integrated approach to developing the sector”.
In response to those concerns, Senior Agricultural Officer with the Plant Quarantine Department Michael James singled out Brazil as a potential source market for planting materials.
“We wrote to our counterparts in that country to find out what diseases and insects they were grappling with in their coconut industry, and our aim is to ensure that we do not create a situation where some of those pests end up over here.
“Any area you want to bring coconut plants from must be free from lethal yellowing, and if you want to bring in tissue culture or nuts you must ask permission from the Plant Quarantine Department first. If not, we will either send the plants back or destroy them,” he warned.
Planters were also advised that since coconut palms took a long time to mature — three to six years in the case of dwarf coconuts and six to ten years for the taller ones — it would make sense to intercrop them with other commodities like sweet potatoes and hot peppers over a seven-year period.
Over the next two weeks the ministry will also meet with coconut vendors and processors.