BY LORETTA BRIGIDIA MANELE
STAKEHOLDERS, government representatives and business houses from the coconut industry gathered together yesterday at the Auditorium Building, Museum area to celebrate Coconut Day.
Under the theme “Managing the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle to Protect our Industries and Rural Livelihoods”, they engaged in discussions regarding the industry’s status, challenges and prospects for future success.
Among the speakers at the event was Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock’s (MAL) Permanent Secretary, Mr Jimmy Saelea.
He said that an approximate 40,000 households rely on coconuts for their livelihoods of which 80 percent of coconut producers are smallholders.
In addition, Mr Saelea stated that the estimated nut production on a yearly basis is around $370million with a gross value of $300million or more thus out of this figure only about $130million is made from the exports of copra and coconut oil.
Moreover, he stressed that challenges the industry is facing relate to land, transport reliability, freight costs, price fluctuations, quality issues, market access and productivity.
Mr Saelea said that one of these challenges is the industry’s stagnant annual production where copra accounts for only 20,000 to 30,000 metric tonnes per year most likely due to the fact that most coconut palms are senile and no longer productive.
In relation, he referred to the coconut rhinoceros beetle scientifically termed “Guam strain or CRB-G as the most challenging concern at the moment posing as a huge threat to the coconut and palm oil industries of which contribute to about 20 percent of the country’s GDP.
Furthermore, Mr Saelea said that destructive coconut pest since being discovered in Honiara back in 2014 has now spread throughout the capital, west to Aruligo and east to Aola with confirmation of its presence in North Malaita and Savo.
He emphasised that the situation is in dire need of collaboration and coordination from all stakeholders including the government, private sector, civil society and communities to plan and execute measures that should curtail the spread of the deadly pest, reduce its population and where possible eradicate it.