“Awakening a Sleeping Giant”. This is the theme of Guyana’s very first Coconut Festival that will be staged during Agriculture Month this year. Stakeholders in the neighbouring Republic of Suriname have signalled their full support for the Guyana Coconut Festival scheduled for October 28 to 30 at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre.
Guyanese Director General of Tourism, Donald Sinclair, and Raymond Trotz, Chairman of the National Stakeholders Platform for Coconut Development, were able to outline the structure of this break-out event at a recent high level meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname organised by Mrs. Sadi-Ann Kersenhout, representative of the Suriname Staatsraad (State Council).
They explained that the festival is a direct spin-off of the Cooperation Agreement signed last February between Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder and Minister responsible for Tourism, Catherine Hughes. Its main objective, they said, is to enhance awareness of the numerous household uses for this fruit and the export value of every single part of the nuts, the leaves, branches and trunk of the coconut tree. “The versatile coconut grows in such abundance in this part of the world that it could easily become an economic staple,” DG Sinclair said.
The visiting Guyanese officials also made a presentation at the AlphaMax Academy also in Parmaribo to approximately 70 Surinamese stakeholders who included Permanent Secretary in the Surinamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Henry McDonald. This official fully endorsed the venture. He agreed that the coconut is an under-used natural product with tremendous food, health and decorative value.
“Hopefully this (festival) could shake us awake out of a comfortable sleep … start the production and export of this global SUPER FRUIT,” he stated.
To date a number of Surinamese enterprises and one artiste have given firm commitments to participate in the Coconut Festival. The Suriname College of Hospitality and Tourism is among them. They intend to showcase the coconut-based Javanese, Hindustani and Maroon cuisine of Suriname. Bert Schreuders of Sotomix has also indicated that his company will use the opportunity to launch fertilised coco peat on the Caribbean market.
The last week of October 2016 will be designated Coconut Awareness Week in Guyana. Among the range of activities will be product exhibitions, cooking and processing demonstrations, and presentations by Guyanese, Surinamese and American stakeholders.
In the interim, the Festival’s Planning Committee will continue to engage other international producers and exporters of coconut products in India, Mexico, Brazil and the Dominican Republic to secure their participation.
The Guyana Coconut Festival was officially launched at the Ramada Georgetown Princess Hotel on Thursday 21st April last.