The regional coconut industry has received a much-needed boost to allow it to capitalise on the growing global demand, following the signing of a Letter of Intent by the International Trade Centre (ITC), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

An official statement released by IICA explains that it, along with CARDI and ITC, have agreed to partner in order to facilitate the joint strengthening of development efforts in the regional coconut industry.

“While the Caribbean has tremendous potential to become an active competitor in the global coconut marketplace, its pace of growth has been compromised by aging plantations, lack of quality planting material, prevalence of pests and diseases, compounded by investment, financial and technological constraints,” the IICA statement observes.

According to IICA, global coconut market demand is at an all-time high and projected to grow exponentially over the next ten years. Increasing awareness of its health benefits, rising applications in the food and beverage industry and the launch of new products has led to wider market penetration. 

CARDI, IICA and ITC believe the Caribbean must be positioned to tap into such potentiality, hence their signing of the Letter of Intent.

International Consultant at ITC, William Castro Rodriguez, outlines the potential benefits of the initiative.

“This collaboration will help us to improve our implementation on the ground, scale up and help us align our policies in the region to support farmer organisations, and to expand coconut production and commercialisation,” he stated.  “We’re very sure that this will help us to reduce the risk of investing in value chains by collaborating with policymakers, buyers, financial institutions, and other organisations that will help to increase the capacity of smallholder farmers. We continue to pledge our support to continue promoting integrated value chains into the Caribbean.”

Both ITC and CARDI have combined their efforts to implement the project, Alliances for Coconut Industry Development Expansion and Enhanced Support for the Caribbean.  The project aims to enhance the competitiveness of small-scale farmers in coconut value chains through better local, regional, and global market integration and production performance. The institutions are implementing the project under the Alliances for Action model, which promotes inclusive and sustainable agricultural value chains while ensuring compliance with environmental, economic, and social requirements. A key objective of the Coconut Project is the creation and reinforcement of food safety standards and strengthening of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) and quality compliance systems.

IICA notes that the project is financed by the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Programme, with oversight by the CARIFORUM Directorate.  Phase 2 of the project ends in 2023.

CARDI’s Manager for Science, Technology and Innovation, Ansari Hosein, points to the synergies the project will create:

“The course of action being pursued today will maximise the use of resources that are made available by preventing duplication of activities. We look forward to this alliance which identifies clear opportunities for synergies between projects to deliver real action and real results to the agricultural communities of this region, so that in time we can speak of this alliance in the context of being a true success story which created long lasting positive impacts.”

IICA is the executing agency for the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Project which is one component of the 11th EDF Programme titled, Support to CARIFORUM States in furthering the implementation of their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) commitments and in meaningfully reaping the benefits of the Agreement.  The objective of this Project is to facilitate CARIFORUM Countries to gain and improve market access by complying with Europe’s SPS measures and to help CARIFORUM states better develop their own regionally harmonised SPS measures.

“The 11th EDF SPS Measures Project, which forms the basis of this alliance, is an important action for the Caribbean, not only in terms of expanding into markets internationally but also it is one that contributes to transforming the regional food sector for improved food and nutrition security,” IICA explains.

Acting Head of the Agricultural Health, Food Safety and Food Quality Program at IICA, Ana Marisa Cordero, says the project will give the regional coconut industry the technical support it needs.

“The project’s specific work on developing the coconut industry includes the provision of technical assistance to private sector organisations in the areas of training and guidance in key aspects of food safety, innovation, they also upgrade laboratories to undertake tests that are required for the marketing and trade of coconut and coconut products,” she noted.

In the Letter of Intent, the Signatories acknowledged the importance of cooperation in the following areas of activity:

●          Knowledge management and information dissemination relating to the development of the agri-food system; in particular, the coconut industry;

●          Establishment of responsible and inclusive public-private production and commercialisation connections with Alliances for Action partners;

●          Capacity building activities in the areas of production and processing; and

●          Strengthening systems for improved SPS compliance in the Caribbean.

“These interventions will contribute to an increased capacity for exports, increased trade and economic development, increased compliance with international obligations and improved market access and a reduction in food safety related incidents,” Cordero stated.

She added: “The partnership with the ITC and CARDI will further assist IICA to achieve the benefits of the rationalisation of resources to scale up interventions to reach a larger number of stakeholders and hence, have a greater impact on livelihoods along the region’s coconut supply chain.” —(IICA)