The Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture hosted a Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP) meeting in Rarotonga from the 27 – 28 November 2019.
The Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Vainetutai Rose Toki Brown welcomed participants from the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Pacific Community to the final meeting of the project.
“The coconut makes positive contribution to health and nutrition, Pacific livelihoods, traditional medicines, climate change and coastal protection so we are promoting the importance of coconuts within the schools, to our farmers and to our women’s organisations,” Minister Brown noted. We must replace our old trees with new and more productive varieties that will enable farmers to participate in the many new markets for coconut. Furthermore, Governments have a vital role in supporting national biosecurity programs, and inter-island biosecurity control, so that pests such as Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle do not spread to the Cook Islands.
CIDP Team Leader, Mr Naheed Hussein, from the Pacific Community (SPC) presented market study data and noted that there are strong opportunities for the Pacific as a major global exporter of copra. “For the Pacific to compete in the global market it is critical that we work together as a region, sharing new varieties of coconuts, techniques for processing and market intelligence that will enable access to global and domestic markets. Key issues for the future are to replant old plantations with early yielding, high-bearing and disease resistant varieties”.
Mr Hussein said, “The Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP) programme is a four million Euro program funded the European Union and administered by the Pacific Community (SPC). Key achievements over the past four years include supporting training of more than 400 farmers and government officers from 15 countries with training, completing a Market Study on Coconut Products for Pacific Producers, and developing a Value Chain Roadmap of three priority products for the Pacific: Virgin Coconut Oil, Quality Copra Oil and Coconut Veneer. The project has also supported 9 pilot projects with private enterprises. We have developed manuals of coconut production and replanting, organic certification, risk management, and E-marketing and most importantly, we have funded development of improved seed systems in five countries to ensure that better coconuts are available for planting programs. “Finally, it is important to note that the programme has provided support to Pacific countries on the management of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles, an invasive species which has already caused significant damage in a number of countries.”
The meeting has identified the need for better data on coconut production for Pacific Island Countries, incentives for replanting programs, better market data and on-going work on biosecurity as key priorities. While the CIDP is finishing, other initiatives are underway in the Pacific on coconut genetic resource improvement, veneer processing, value-chain analysis and biosecurity.