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Coconut Industry stakeholders urged to capitalise on niche markets

Players in the local coconut industry are being encouraged to do more to take advantage of high-value niche markets.

According to Deputy Programme Manager at the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Tristan Alvarez, currently, stakeholders focus on coconut water, oil and desiccated coconut [dried and grated meat], but there are other opportunities to earn from value-added production.

He suggested that persons look beyond the food market to prospects in the cosmetic industry, noting that there is also a demand for items such as activated coconut charcoal, and the tree trunk, husk and shell.

Alvarez said that stakeholders in the sector could also capitalise on the need for biodegradable materials.

“The European Union has moved away from single use plastics. A lot of countries around the region have been looking at that from a policy perspective.

Those retail products that you would get when you buy food – the knives, forks, spoons and Styrofoam or plastic food receptacles – are a great opportunity for us to repurpose coconut  and agricultural waste for use in our retail/food markets or industries,” he pointed out.

Noting that start-up costs often serve as a deterrent for agro-processors to enter niche markets, Mr. Alvarez said that stakeholders should view this as an investment that will pay off in the future.

“What we find in the region is that we focus on the raw material. We need to go beyond and see how we can innovate, be creative and develop a diverse range of products [to serve] different sectors. The manufacturing industry doesn’t only speak to what we bring in and sell, but what we could create as a people,” he noted.

“I think this is the shift that we could make and you’ll find that there are niche players in the industry who have been utilising creative solutions. We now need to build that capacity and look at ways that we could incorporate the technologies that would allow us to achieve things at scale,” Mr. Alvarez added.

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