Reviving the Caribbean’s coconut industry
Global demand for coconut water, oil and other by-products of the humble coconut is providing new export opportunities for Caribbean countries.
Booming international demand for coconut water, oil and other products represents a significant opportunity for the Caribbean coconut industry to boost exports and job creation, and thus contribute to economic development and poverty reduction.
Yet many small countries in the region struggle to compete and benefit from this growing market demand. The industry has experienced a number of setbacks since the early 1980s, with the ageing demographic of farmers compounded by an influx of pests and diseases and the loss of international market share to other products such as soybean and palm oil.
To help the Caribbean coconut industry seize the opportunities presented by renewed demand, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), in partnership with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the European Union (EU) are implementing a 3.5 million euro project to boost productivity, quality, and value addition in the sector.
The first phase of the project is now being implemented, engaging key stakeholders in the coconut industry from nine countries. From 20 April 2015 ITC and CARDI have been organizing a series of two-day interactive workshops bringing together farmers, processors, business owners and government officials to map out market objectives and development requirements in Jamaica, Dominican Republic and St. Lucia.
In addition to discussing market opportunities and potential for region-wide cooperation, participants agreed on realistic market objectives, productivity, policy environment and support services needed to enhance competitiveness across the coconut value chain. Each workshop has yielded a market-led road map for developing the coconut sector. The road maps will be validated at the national and regional levels so that implementation activities may be aligned and coordinated.
The four-year EU funded project will be implemented in the CARIFORUM countries of Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. It has been widely welcomed for its potential to improve income and employment opportunities, food security, and the overall competitiveness of the Caribbean coconut sector. The value-chain road maps will also look at how to attract complementary funding for activities outside of the scope of the current EU project.