Thousands of coconut farmers now affected by shutdown

Pomeroon factory closure

Ever since the closure of its operations due to improper waste dumping, Fat Boy Coconut Ventures in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) has committed to paying the $1 million fine imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, a bigger problem lies now that some 3000 coconut farmers have been placed on the breadline.
On Friday the company stated that the facility remains closed and harvest continues to spoil, owing to a steep decline in demand for coconuts. According to the company, reports in the media suggesting that Government has allowed them to continue operating are untrue.
“We recognise that the livelihood of the majority of the farmers in the Pomeroon River is heavily dependent on the harvesting, processing, sale and export of coconuts and their by-products from the region and we know that this sudden loss of stable and predictable income for their crop has had a severe negative impact on the farming community…We also wish to confirm that our processing facilities remain closed, and regrettably, farmers’ crops continue to spoil with little to no demand for them, contrary to the recent ministerial outreach that…Government has decided to allow the country’s largest coconut water facility to continue operation,” Fat Boy Coconut Ventures said.
The EPA had imposed the penalty for dumping shells and husks into canals which lead into the Pomeroon River. While they have expressed willingness to pay the fine, there has been no definitive timeline as to how long this situation will endure. Presently, consultations have begun with relevant officials as well as exercises to find a solution independently.
“Fat Boy Ventures Inc is working with local and foreign consultants to resolve the issues with the EPA and subsequent closure of its processing facility which has unfortunately resulted in thousands of farmers being placed on the bread line. We cannot definitively say for how long this situation will continue. Our Quality Assurance and Quality Control operations teams have been conducting an in-depth diligence exercise to try to find solutions swiftly, independently of the EPA.”
Meanwhile, the bottling facility also called out the EPA for failing to present solutions to address waste management woes in the interior locations.
“Although the EPA is the regulatory agency in charge of environmental protection, it has failed to offer any practical and innovative suggestions to the waste management challenges unique to the Guyana interior and surrounding terrain,” the closed company expressed.
According to the company, for now they have managed to convince overseas buyers of the bottled coconut water that the product can be supplied consistently on the international arena despite present challenges.
“We have also actively engaged our overseas buyers to reassure them of our continued reliability as a consistent and sustainable supply source of coconut products to the regional and international export markets. So far, they have indicated a willingness to continue buying from us.”
Guyana Times understands that the bottling plant is the largest purchaser of coconuts from the Pomeroon region, and the finished product has proven to be a major foreign exchange earner.
President of Pomeroon Coconut Farmers Association, Glenrick Ali had indicated last week that the closed facility was the most dynamic in the Caribbean, processing 15,000 nuts per day. Now, only one other bottling facility remains, which cannot ease the current production rate.