Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Coconut Board says it can triple production, with help

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The Coconut Industry Board has put forward a new strategic business and capital expenditure plan, targeting the planting of approximately 150,000 acres of coconuts over the next decade.

Hitting the target would more than triple the current 40,000 acres of coconuts.

The board is eyeing the "huge increase in demand" for coconut-based products as an opportunity and is proposing a joint venture initiative - with private sector partnership - to develop factories for coconut water and sports drink production facilities, as well as virgin coconut oil production facilities.

Some of that demand is filled by imports.

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica says that in 2015 approximately $1.3 billion (US$11.4million) of coconuts and coconut by-products were imported to satisfy local demand.

The new Coconut Board plans call for an investment of $3 billion over 10 years, with an anticipated internal rate of return of 29.1 per cent, the commodity board said in a statement.

"It is estimated that this plan could generate thousands of stable long-term jobs within the agricultural sector," it stated.

The plan has been submitted to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries, seeking its support for the expansion industry.

The Coconut Board aims to engage 2,000 new small farmers, medium-sized growers and local and overseas investors, as a way to boost crop acreages.

Its strategic focus "is to position Jamaica as the leader in coconut seedlings, coconut production and value-added coconut products in the Caribbean", the board said.

Chairman Christopher Gentles was quoted as saying the local coconut industry is poised for significant growth as the Coconut Board was increasing its nursery capacity.

"Due to our extensive research and technical competence in disease control we have also been asked to play a leadership role within the region on several projects," said Gentles. "We are building our reputation as an authority on the development of coconuts and its potential business growth and overall contribution to national development," he said.

The board has received funding from the European Union Caribbean Coconut Competitiveness Improvement project, which is being executed by CARDI and the International Trade Centre in Brussels.

It currently manages two seed gardens and four nurseries with a total production capacity of 400,000 seedlings each year and also provides a market for coconuts produced by small farmers.

The Coconut Board also indicated that it plans to establish its own coconut farm intercropped with cocoa.

And it is hoping for joint venture partners for the establishment and operation of a packaging facility for coconut water and a processing plant for virgin coconut oil.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com