Supply vs. Demand of Coconut: An Unprepared Caribbean?

Keron Bascombe


“It’s fair to say that at this pace, the Caribbean is running out of coconut”.  These sentiments were expressed by Compton Paul who coordinates a regional coconut programme at the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in Trinidad.

“THE CARIBBEAN IS RUNNING OUT OF COCONUTS”.  I think I speak for all coconut water drinking, coconut oil loving women and men around the world when I say that such a headline is very alarming, and dare I say quite frightening.  This should not happen. Ever.

State of Affairs

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) coconut plantations have shrunk by about 17 percent since 1994.

Another source points to the decline in production beginning in the 1980s because of increased pest and diseases, competition with other crops and little investment in new trees by farmers, among other reasons.

Farmers essentially gave up on the industry for a while.  That is until the grand comeback of coconut.

With the demand for coconut water, coconut oil and coconut milk steadily increasing, the region is faced with a major crisis in that it is not able to meet this demand.

Countries Leading the Way

The coconut tree is known as the “Tree of Life”.  With its endless list of products as well as by-products, the coconut industry is literally a billion dollar one and farmers of the region should be able to cash in on this.

In Guyana, the coconut industry, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, produces 92 million nuts annually and is the country’s leading non-traditional export crop. Given its impressive performance, it is expected to accelerate the country’s Gross Domestic Product by 20 percent over the next few years.

From October 21st to 23rd, 2016, the country will see the hosting of the first Guyana Coconut Festival which is “intended to re-educate Guyanese people about the diverse benefits of this super-fruit including the health and cosmetic benefits, the nutritional value, the decorative value of the shell, tree trunk, branches and fronds, as well as the numerous ways for up-cycle and down-cycle manufacturing.”  

 This festival is a collaboration between the Ministry of Business – Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Agriculture, with support from the International Trade Centre (ITC) and CARDI.  It is one step to positioning Guyana for a bright coconut future.

Way Forward for the Coconut

It is because of my love for coconut and the need to be well aware of the status of the Regional industry, that I am extremely interested in the workshop “Status of the Regional Coconut Industry and the Way Forward toward its development” which is being hosted by the CARDI during the 2016 Caribbean Week of Agriculture.  CWA 2016 takes place from October 24th to 28th in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands under the theme “Investing in Food and Agriculture”.

This workshop aims to “review in-depth the results of inventions in the coconut industry in the Caribbean region during the last 3 years since CWA 2013 and to agree on priority interventions and a roadmap for developing the Caribbean coconut industry within a five-year period at national and regional levels”. 

It will target producers, input suppliers, customers, traders, consumers, investors, government agencies, local NGO’s, lending agencies (banks), importers\exporters and agro dealers.

I, personally, cannot wait to hear the outcomes and results, so that I can rest easy.

Written by: Nakasi Fortune

Edited by: Keron Bascombe

Photo Source: Pixabay.com

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CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.