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Government encourages coconut products industry    11/3/2011 3:12:00 PM    ReadCount:541

The government is taking steps to revitalise the coconut products industry. 
Through Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) a series of Family Island coconut productivity assessments have started. 
On Tuesday, coconut specialist Dr Wayne Myrie of Jamaica and a BAIC team headed by executive chairman Edison M Key surveyed farms in Eleuthera. 
On Monday they met with New Providence growers and on Wednesday they were in South Andros. 
This is the first stage of revitalising the coconut industry to meet local demand for trees, nuts, oil, water and other products. 
This initiative is being spearheaded by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA). 
There is a limited formally organised plantings of coconut orchards in The Bahamas. Most existing production is based on old trees and volunteer growth. South Andros has the highest coconut tree count and is seen as serving as a base for expansion. 
Due to the need to introduce new germ plasm in order to boost productivity, a mission by a coconut specialist from Jamaica was requested in order to assist and advise producers about new available varieties and approaches to revitalise coconut production. 
“There is great potential for an industry here,” said Dr Myrie. “There is a wide range of products that you can obtain from the coconut tree which is why it is called the tree of heaven.” 
He has 14 years experience in coconut production and specialises in the problems associated with coconut production including pests and diseases. He has a PhD in bio-chemistry and an MSc in plant pathology and has worked with Jamaica’s Coconut Industry Board since 1997. 
Contrary to mainstream view, Dr Myrie insists that coconuts have no health-damaging cholesterol. 
There are varieties of coconuts to suit the different soil conditions on the islands. 
“We are exploring the possibilities of creating an industry from coconuts,” said Mr Key. “Every portion of the coconut can be used for something. 
“In South Andros we’re looking at putting in equipment to extract coconut oil and process other coconut products. 
“I see it as an industry that could employ hundreds of people and create many opportunities for Bahamians. 
“There is a huge demand for coconut products.” 
BAIC’s assistant general manager for agriculture, Arnold Dorsett, was impressed by Greg Stuart’s orchard in North Eleuthera. 
“He has an excellent start with almost 50 acres of coconuts. He has a good variety, they are well planted, and they are doing very well.” 
While convinced the market in The Bahamas for coconut products is good, Mr Dorsett was concerned about fair access to it by Bahamian growers. 
“I wouldn’t want Mr Stuart or anyone else to go into production like this and cannot sell their product on the local market. 
“For example, there should be no need at this time that we should be importing such a large number of coconut trees at different stages and ages for the landscaping industry. 
“We just have to encourage Bahamians to support Bahamian and if need be then we can bring in from elsewhere.”