TRINIDAD and Tobago could benefit “substantially” from the revitalisation of the coconut industry, as global demand increases for its products.
So said Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF), Avinash Singh, on Wednesday while addressing a coconut sensitisation workshop hosted by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and held in collaboration with the ministry.
Singh said T&T “stands to benefit substantially from the sustainable revitalisation of the coconut industry, the products and by-products of which have increased in demand and continue to attract a favourable price globally”.
The workshop, held at the Sugarcane Feeds Centre in Longdenville, Chaguanas, focused on “Lethal Yellowing” and improved integrated pest management methods for managing the South American palm weevil.
Singh said local coconut production was one of the commodities targeted for development by the MALF, noting a resurgence of the sector worldwide and growing demand for its products and by-products.
Market valued at US$4.27b
The global coconut water market was valued around US$4.27 billion in 2019, with an expected annual growth rate of 16.1 per cent from 2020 to 2027, he said.
Given the industry’s potential to contribute favourably to T&T’s Gross Domestic Product, as well as its alignment with the increasing demands of a growing network of health conscious consumers, the local coconut sector was being given particular attention.
Singh said while coconut production signalled the main source of economic activity and development of rural communities along Trinidad’s east coast, the industry suffered a decline in the 1970s and 1980s.
This was due to the advent of pests and diseases, namely Cedros Wilt and Red Ring disease, as well as the thrust towards the use of soya bean oil in favour of coconut oil.
These factors no doubt contributed to under-cultivated fields, Singh said, abandoned estates and aged plantations “which left us essentially unprepared for any eventual/actual resurgence which would take place within the sector”.
Singh stated: “Since the 1990s, the growth in demand for tender coconut water and other by-products of coconut have been phenomenal, resulting in significant increases in price. Coconut by-products are now regarded as beneficial to human health and well-being with an increasing demand locally, regionally and internationally that now exceeds our current supply.”
He added: “Over the past few years, people worldwide are increasingly adopting several healthy and nutritional drinks to maintain a healthy lifestyle and coconut water is by far the leading plant-based water available for sale.”
Singh lauded Wednesday’s workshop as one more in a series of collaborative ventures involving CARDI, which was aimed at rehabilitating coconut estates across the region.
He said the workshop was intended to assist in the conceptualisation of a roadmap for the development of the coconut sector in Trinidad and Tobago.
The workshop was facilitated by a specialist technical team from the International Trade Centre; the Coconut Industry Board (Jamaica); and the University of Florida.
It was funded by the European Union under the Alliances for Coconut Industry Development Expansion and Enhanced Support for the Caribbean (ACIDEES) project, stated a news release from the Ministry of Agriculture.