The International Trade Centre (ITC) Alliances for Action committee, which includes CARDI, Scientific Research Council (SRC), the Coconut Industry Board, European Union, ACP and CARIFORUM, recently joined efforts in organizing a workshop directed at coconut producers and processors. Executed by the Scientific Research Council, the workshop aimed at improving competitiveness through food safety, hygienic practices and value addition/ product development techniques for coconuts and associated crops, the workshop was particularly designed to address needs that have emerged with the COVID -19 pandemic.
With the decline in the hospitality industry as well as other markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coconut industry is preparing to position itself in such a way that will enhance its market options. As such, the food safety and value-added workshops were largely focussed on extending the shelf-life of products, improving food quality and safety for consumers and increasing product diversity for smallholder coconut farmers.
The project was implemented in two parts with the first phase dedicated to farmers, cutters and processors, who were introduced to food safety and hygiene, Good Manufacturing Practices, and COVID protocols. The second phase, which was mainly for processors within the industry, focussed on generating value-added products from coconuts such as soaps, massage and body oils.
The participants, who found the workshop to be relevant and timely, all expressed gratitude. Leonard Gordon, a coconut farmer, said that he found the session to be informative; he learned about safe farming practices in light of COVID-19 and other viruses and also techniques to adapt and put in place. His views were reiterated by Adrian Robinson who also found the session to be informative and an eye-opener to things that were previously taken for granted. He was happy to learn about best practices to enforce during his everyday activities on the farm.
Highlighting details as simple as not placing coconuts on the ground when reaping, the workshop proved to be both educational and thorough as it covered all stages of coconut farming.