Guyana to boost cherry, coconut & turmeric production with USAID regional funding


…UG signs MoU for research, technical collaboration with IESC

Guyanese farmers are set to benefit from specialised technical assistance to expand production of cherry, coconut and turmeric crops in the country under a $5.3 million Caribbean Agricultural Productivity Improvement Activity (CAPA) initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

CAPA is a three-year programme that is focused on enhancing food security in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean by increasing fruit and vegetable productivity, building the capacity of buyers and input suppliers to strengthen relationships with farmers, and improving farm-level extension systems.

The USAID-funded CAPA, which was launched on Wednesday by the US-based Improving Economies for Stronger Communities (IESC), will be rolled out in several countries across the Caribbean including Guyana, where the focus will be on cherry, coconut and turmeric production.

Under this initiative, the University of Guyana (UG) on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with IESC to work with experts to improve the turmeric value chain in Guyana as well as other regional nations. The pact was inked by CAPA Programme Director Sandiford Edwards and UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Paloma Mohamed Martin.

Professor Martin explained the university would be leading the research aspect of this project through its Institute for Food and Nutrition Security (IFANS). This facility was set up in September 2022 to assist with finding solutions to food and nutrition security problems in Guyana and other nations in the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

IFANS is currently being headed by Professor Leonard O’Garro of St Vincent and the Grenadines. He told Inews that the Institute developed the turmeric project having recognised the market value the commodity holds, and invited CAPA to partner on developing the spice.

“it’s a project which originates from the Institute for Food and Nutrition Security, but CAPA has come onboard as a collaborator and they are partnering with us in specific areas. So, for example, in areas of demonstration plots, they will provide funding assistance and personnel to assist us in setting up several demonstration plots in Guyana so that farmers can understand the best conditions for growing turmeric, and with market and with training,” said the IFANS Director.

Turmeric, cherry and coconut

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Guyana, Nicole Theriot said the MoU between UG and CAPA would lead to policy recommendations and would also help to mobilise much-needed additional technical and financial resources in the Caribbean region.

“US$5.3 million is a great start, but it will not help us to get where we want to be, so having this MoU is really going to be helpful in that regard. The MoU will allow CAPA and UG to work together to improve the turmeric value chain in three of the beneficiary countries – Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname,” she posited.

Currently, Region One (Barima-Waini) has been identified as Guyana’s spice capital with some 100 acres of turmeric presently under cultivation along with an even larger crop of ginger.

Following consultations with local stakeholder agencies like the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI); the local Private Sector and farmers, IESC subsequently identified turmeric, cherry and coconut as the three target commodities for support under the CAPA initiative.

According to Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, these three target commodities identified for development in Guyana have significant growth potential and as such, the Government has been investing in creating an enabling environment to increase their productivity here.

With regard to cherry, Mustapha noted that efforts have already begun locally to expand Guyana’s production capacity to meet the high-demand market. IESC has commenced stakeholder consultations with NAREI, a major processor, along with some small processors as well, and several cherry farmers in the Laluni area on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway.

“There is a strong demand for cherries, especially for use in the fruit juice industry and assisting smallholder farmers to increase production will help to meet this need. Cherry is among the preferred fruit juices demanded. Information from a major processor suggests that the demand for cherry averages one million pounds per annum. Presently, we are supplying less than 50 per cent of that. So, there is a lot of work we have to do among the cherry farmers to expand cultivation,” the Agriculture Minister stressed.

Cherry industry

Mustapha, who is also heading the Caricom Ministerial Taskforce on Food Security, believes that the Region could work closely with USAID to further develop the cherry industry and take advantage of these opportunities.

Similarly, with cherries, there are also huge market opportunities for coconuts. The Minister noted that the Guyana Government has established coconut nurseries in strategic locations across the country as part of its expansion efforts. In the last three years, nurseries have been built in Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and Nine with plans to do the same in Regions Eight and 10.

“We have seen in an increase in coconut production to about 40,000 seedlings in 2023 and there was an expansion of 6500 acres of coconut from 2020 to 2023. We have also started to import the Brazilian Green Dwarf coconut – a high-yielding nut – and we’re helping farmers to get that nut so that we can increase yields. We have seen that the coconut has been one of the lucrative crops around the world and over 500 farmers in Guyana have been engaged in this programme to expand coconut production,” Minister Mustapha said.

Local coconut farmer and exporter Rajkumar Outar of Rayo Trades Inc. – one of the businesses that will benefit from the US$5.3 million regional CAPA initiative – noted that the market demand was high for coconut. For example, he pointed out that Guyana is currently unable to meet the demand for coconut in the Dominican Republic.

“Guyana should continue to increase its cultivation of this blessed fruit. A coconut palm may take years to come to productivity and cultivating now definitely is not too early. The dynamics are changing, the demands are growing and the benefits are far too many for this one-of-a-kind crop not to be given its due recognition… Coconut is the magic fruit – one which offers huge benefits to humankind. Its consumption each grows and Guyana has a unique opportunity to be counted as one of the major suppliers in this hemisphere and make it a country brand. Let’s do it,” the businessman declared.