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Coconut industry benefits from CARDI project

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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Since the implementation of the Caribbean Coconut Industry Development Project two-and-a-half years ago, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has made several strides in improving the local coconut industry through training as well as the establishment of new nurseries among other targeted initiatives.

The four-year project was undertaken through a partnership between CARDI and the International Trade Centre (ITC), with funding provided by the European Union. It was aimed at improving income and employment opportunities, food security, and overall competitiveness of the Caribbean coconut sector.

Participating countries in the project include Jamaica, Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Suriname, among others in the region.

According to CARDI country representative for Jamaica Dr Gregory Robin, Jamaica has the most organised coconut industry board in the region and so a partnership was developed with the local Coconut Industry Board, which had established a national stakeholder platform that addresses all the issues along the value chain, from production to the manufacturing of coconut water, oils and soaps.

He noted that since the project's inception they have done a lot of training and established numerous nurseries across the island, with the newest one slated to be built in the western section of the island. The CARDI country representative added that the training conducted locally also facilitates regional farmers, processors and producers as Jamaica has much more established facilities to cater to the necessary training.

Robin explained that they are also looking at all the various pest and disease issues, including the coconut mite, ambrosia beetle, and the lethal yellowing. In turn, they are working on clean planting materials, which will also be a main focus moving forward for the remaining two years of the project.

He added that training will centre on integrated pest management (IPM), which will be done by conducting experiments in various countries and, in the case of Jamaica, they have selected plots to examine the aforementioned pests and disease.

“Again, we are working closely with the Coconut Industry Board. They were involved with selection of farms,” he said. “We're gonna do more nursery management because the key in expansion is having clean planting materials, so we're gonna ensure the nurseries are in good condition and they have irrigation facilities to ensure we get vibrant seed material and things like that,” Robin said.

In his assessment of the local coconut industry, Robin stated that it has suffered a serious setback from lethal yellowing, but the Coconut Industry Board has made some significant progress with varieties and management of the disease over the years.

“It's very important we do not move diseased planting materials around the island,“ he said. “The disease is in a particular area; keep it localised, and I think the Coconut Industry Board is doing a good job on that. What the project is doing is supporting the board to ensure we get the sustainability of those activities,” Robin said.

He explained that they have applied for an extension of the project and the response has been positive so far. Hopefully, he said, this means they will have coconut activities going on for the next four or five years in Jamaica as well as in the rest of the region.

“We have done a lot of training on good manufacturing practices in the small processing water bottling plants and now we want to address the issue of vending around the roadside because that needs addressing and improvement of the sanitation standards. So it's a pretty interesting project and we are getting some good results from it,” Robin told the Jamaica Observer.

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