Boost to Guyana’s coconut industry

As Guyana continues to evolve in the expansion of its coconut industry, there has been another boost with the injection of 1,000 seed nuts of Brazilian Green Dwarf coconut variety in Guyana.
Research has shown that this particular variety is very high-yielding, higher volume of water and has a high tolerance from pests and diseases. This can only augur well for our local industry. Giving the magnitude of the industry, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha revealed that some $1.5B has been earned from January to September of this year from the export of coconut and coconut products.
To quote the minister: “As CARICOM seeks to reduce the food import bill by 25% by 2025, with Guyana having the lead responsibility of agriculture in the region, coconut is one of the priority commodities that has been identified for increased production…internationally, the coconut industry is expected to be a USD30 Billion industry by 2026, therefore it is important for us to set the stage to tap into this market.”
If one can recall in 2021 there was another major investor in the industry, who invested US$8 million in the Pomeroon area, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam).
The coconut industry is one which could be a money-spinner for the country. Already, coconut is the third major crop cultivated in Guyana, after rice and sugar cane. This industry can be one which could produce scores of by-products, for which there is demand for export as well as local use. As it stands, according to the British investor of the Pomeroon project, Duncan Turnbull, the company cultivates the three-year dwarf variety primarily for the production of coconut water. The company is also involved in inter-cropping, with crops like passion fruit, bananas, turmeric, and ginger under cultivation.
What is noteworthy is that the investor said a relationship has been established with farmers from the Pomeroon. This is the kind of collaboration Guyana needs, wherein local farmers are able to benefit from large projects.
In 2020 Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha had made a welcoming announcement that Guyana would soon join the membership of the International Coconut Community (ICC) as Government advances plans to increase cultivation of this crop countrywide.
The coconut and its by-products are now in growing demand worldwide.
Coconut oil, which once used to be wrongly labelled as high-cholesterol, is now regarded as among the best cooking oils, many consumers preferring it to olive and canola oils.
It could be recalled that a coconut expert from India, Dr Shivarama Reddy, had come to Guyana some years ago to work with NAREI and local farmers to examine ways in which the coconut industry could be revitalised, and to look at possible markets for the product. Also, a position paper by NAREI had outlined three main areas of intervention to aid in the coconut industry: increasing the productivity and production potential of the sector; assessing the state of Guyana’s coconut oil industry and its future, and considering possible support mechanisms; and exploring other coconut-derived products in terms of their value-added and export potential.
The coconut industry has the potential to become more profitable by 2026 and this can be achieved if suitable lands are leased to prospective farmers, and intensive agricultural extension services are provided, as well as soft loans and marketing exploration.
The Agriculture Ministry and the Lands and Surveys Commission, with the help of experts, should be able to locate good coconut-growing lands and advertise for suitable takers. Unlike in the past, when there were talks of the massive production, giving optimistic hopes propagated to the public but never materialised, it is time that serious effort be expended in reviving the industry. This industry has very huge potential for expansion and development, especially as it relates to processing and value-added products. Guyana could tremendously increase its earnings from exports in this industry.