There are some 85 coconut vendors plying their trade all over Barbados, and with such large numbers, ensuring they meet high standards in terms of hygiene, overall appearance and professionalism will become more important as Barbados seeks to develop the coconut industry.
Therefore, the National Coconut Stakeholders Platform (NCSP) has embarked on a series of training programmes for coconut vendors involving representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Ministry of Health and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC).
Vice Chairman of the NCSP Patrice Stoute, told Barbados TODAY, “The Coconut Water Quality certificate is a pilot programme to bring vendors up to a high standard across the board, and once this happens, they should see their sales improve.”
Mark Byer of the Ministry of Agriculture stated, “We are working with the BIDC in terms of labelling the products. The labels will carry the name of the vendor, his contact information as well as a nutritional table, because some people may be allergic to elements in the coconut.” Another member of the audience underscored the importance of having contact information included so problems with the product or repeat sales could be handled by the vendor.
One of the major concerns the vendors raised was the disposal of shells, which can become an environmental and health hazard. It was revealed two main establishments in Barbados accepts the shells – the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre (SBRC) and another facility in St. George. But there are some challenges with the availability of the shredder and large volumes of shells could place an extreme burden on the equipment.
Also of concern is the mixing of metal and plastics with the shells, which could damage the machinery. One vendor suggested they dispose of the shells as one combined group.
CARDI representative, Ansari Hosein, agreed with the suggestion that the vendors form an association, noting that “If [ you do that, you could ] access funding, at which time, we can try to get you a machine that can help you process the coconuts to a form that the group can sell, so you can get some additional revenue.”
The first two graduates of the training programme were Rohan Bynoe and Harvey Lewis. They were presented with a number of tools to help them ply their trade in a more sanitary and professional manner. These included aprons, hairnets and caps, stainless steel tools, a water bucket with a tap to wash their hands as well as the coconuts, hand sanitizer, a table with an easy to clean surface, and a record book to document the source of their products.
The next three-part course will be held on May 14, 15 and 22. While today’s course focused mainly on the vendors along the ABC Highway, the upcoming ones will be reaching out to vendors in other areas. (DH)