Belize, Mexico work together to boost coconut exports
Belizean entrepreneurs travelled to the Mexico Coconut Expo, through a collaboration among ITC's Alliances for Action, the EU, CARIFORUM, and Caribbean partners.
From Belize to Mexico: South-South learning for the coconut sector
Belize was once a major coconut exporter. Coconut still contributes significantly to the national economy, but globally, Belize ranks just 80th in coconut production. While the sector has significant potential, it needs a boost.
Meanwhile, Mexico is the seventh-largest producer of coconuts, with a projected 0.7% year-on-year growth. In a bid to strengthen Belizean production and sales of coconuts and other crops like soursop, dragon fruit and soybeans, Mexico and Belize have entered a bilateral agreement.
The idea is to share knowledge, best practices, and strategies to make crops more competitive in both countries, while teaching new skills to producers and processors.
Belizean farmers, cooperatives and agri-processors participated in Mexico’s Coconut Expo, where the learned about different coconut varieties and about good agricultural practices.
Jose Ortega is one of the six coconut farmers from Belize who traveled to the Coconut Expo with the International Trade Centre (ITC).
‘The experience was absolutely exceptional,’ he said.
‘Now I realize to what extent organic fertilizers can optimize production. Under the guidance of our Mexican counterparts, we learned to create biofertilizers from coconut products and residue, and to extract knowledge from all aspects of coconuts.’
Farmers in Belize are also starting to source new, more adapted machinery for product transformation and value addition, and they are developing strategies to access the Mexican tourism market as coconut demand increases exponentially.
Sharing tricks of the trade to enhance production and value addition
The Coconut Expo ran from 8-12 May 2023, gathering 1,200 people from across Belize and Mexico. They were offered trainings, networking, field visits and an exhibition of coconut technologies and value-added products.
The Coconut Expo gave prime importance to hands-on learning and community sharing as a way of securing concrete take-aways for participants. It sought to improve Belize coconut production, revealing new sustainable methods of production and value addition.
A field visit was organized to the main areas of coconut production in Chetumal, Mexico, to provide a guided overview of their challenges and the innovative solutions they are implementing.
Belizean participants left with a few takeaways, including plans to build organizational skills, and requirements for product transformation, machinery, labelling and food safety.
Meanwhile, the exhibition area displayed Mexican products under development for national and export markets, showing technologies for farmer transformation and value addition.
ITC’s EU-funded programme for Caribbean Coconuts is scaling up this holistic value chain approach across the region. It implements capacity building on value addition, food safety and sustainable processing from farm to shelf. The programme closes the loop by building market linkages and attracting regional investment.
Belize’s participating farmers and cooperatives return to their respective communities to share the knowledge and methods learned. The extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture will also update its network of farmers.
The ITC sustainable agribusiness initiative, Alliances for Action, is supporting this exercise through the Caribbean: Development of value added products and intra-regional trade to enhance livelihoods from coconuts programme, funded by the European Union (EU) and supported by CARIFORUM.
Under this programme, ITC partnered with Mexico's National Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP), Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprises of Belize and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
About the project
The International Trade Centre’s Alliances for Action, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Coconut Industry Board and important regional and national partners have been working since 2015 to facilitate alliances among actors at every step of the Caribbean coconut value chain through the Caribbean: Development of value added products and intra-regional trade to enhance livelihoods from coconuts CARIFORUM programme funded by the European Union.
Sustainable agriculture and processing practices, value addition and commercial alliances are some of the key tools leveraged. The goal of the project is to increase food availability and incomes of small-scale farmers through improved competitiveness of the coconut sector.