Gov’t continues to invest in expansion of coconut production

In line with its promise to expand Guyana’s potential to manufacture value-added goods, with a budgetary investment of $66 million this year to increase resources and encourage growth, the PPP/C Administration is prioritising the coconut industry.

Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha cutting the ceremonial ribbon at the commissioning of the coconut nursery

Led by President, Dr Irfaan Ali, Guyana has been leading the Caribbean in its food security efforts to lower the high food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 in the region.

The government’s National Coconut Decentralisation Programme was implemented across the country to provide technical support and low-cost access to coconut seedlings.

On Wednesday, during brief remarks at the commissioning of a $4.3 million coconut nursery in Hosororo, Region One, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha said the government is keen on increasing Guyana’s coconut production.

Coconut nursery

 “For our country to be robust, for our country to be secure, we have to have food security. We have been very fortunate that we are producing almost 60 per cent of the food that we are consuming… We want to produce all the food we are consuming. This nursery here will allow you to get your materials right here in this region. So, we want to decentralize the services that we are offering…We want us to spread across this country.”

Minister Mustapha highlighted the host of opportunities in the agriculture sector. He reiterated that the government has revitalised the industry with significant investments over the last two years while initiating new programmes to boost agricultural production.

He stated further, that the ministry has been working to develop coconut nurseries, and decentralise the production of coconut seedlings across the country.

“We are commissioning a coconut nursery… This nursery here will allow you to get your materials right here in this region rather than go out of the region. So, we want to decentralise the services that we are offering in Georgetown.

“People must not see agriculture based in the city alone. We want us to spread across this country…This coconut nursery, you heard the benefits of coconut today. Today, the entire world is looking at the benefits and the importance of a coconut… The coconut water industry, alone, in this world, is $2.2 billion.”

Minister Mustapha emphasised that farmers should begin cultivating coconuts because of the advantages and rising demand for the fruit and its bi-products. He said efforts are being made by the government to make available the resources required to expand the sector.

“There’s an all-round trade (in the coconut industry), you can do oil, you could use the fibre to do other things, the raw materials,” the minister highlighted.

Meanwhile, Country Representative of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Jhaman Kundun, lauded the government’s partnership and initiative to commission the coconut nursery in the hinterland region.

“It is vital and important that in providing food and food security in our country but even our outline regions that we do these sorts of initiatives and we’re happy that it is at this location.”

Kundun underlined that Guyana is among the three major producers of coconuts in the region. Guyana produces 20 per cent, the Dominican Republic 59 per cent, and Jamaica 12 per cent of the region’s demand.

“Initiatives, like these, will allow us to go beyond this 20 per cent that we supply in the region…with this here (coconut nursery), we have an excellent opportunity, and empowering small farmers at your level will enable your region and country to grow exponentially as a sector that could bring in significant earnings and foreign exchange,”he added.

At the end of June 2022, $34.6 million of the budgeted $66 million was expended to increase coconut cultivation and production.

With a 58 per cent increase in coconut output to 27,598 tonnes in the first half of the year, the national initiative to improve the production of coconut water and coconut-based goods has been successful.

The government constructed a coconut nursery at Fort Wellington, Region Five, and will complete the construction of a coconut nursery in Lethem, Region Nine by the end of the year which will be a total of 10 decentralised nurseries with a 206,000-seedling production capacity. In comparison to 18,306 in the first half of 2021, 21,566 coconut seedlings were produced in the first half of 2022.  The government spent $15.8 billion of the $32.6 billion allocated for agriculture during the first half of 2022 to improve cultivation and output to lower imports, boost exports, and promote diversification.