GOOD NEWS: Coconut Production And Silk Destruction

Coconut Water | Performed by Robert Mitchum | Uploaded by MusicForYourFunk


Feb 26, 2012:
"The Government’s trip to India in January has begun to reap rewards for the agriculture sector in T&T. On Friday, Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath at a luncheon at Carlton Savannah in Port-of-Spain welcomed Dr Avvaru Sujatha, principal scientist and head of the Mango Research Unit from the Nuzvid Krishna district of India to the country.

For the next year, Sujatha will assist in the control of the Red Palm Mite pest affecting the dying coconut industry in T&T at no costs to the T&T Government." SOURCE.
Jan 16, 2012: Returning from her state visit to India, our PM announced that:
"in a meeting with Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath and the coconut industry board of India, an Indian expert will arrive this week in the country to assist in riding the red palm mite that decimated the industry."

“The Indian expert will arrive in the country this week for a period of six months to be extended by another six months if necessary to get rid of the disease,” she said." SOURCE
I was thrilled recently to read the Newsday article which I have posted below. It was about the St Patrick’s Coconut Growers’ Co-op Society Ltd and their plans to rejuvenate coconut production in Trinidad and Tobago by reactivating the Cedros plantations. If I could see just one article like this every day in our newspapers, I'd have fewer worries about our future. Coconut and bamboo products are among the many that have been on my mind for some years because I live where those commodities are in high demand. Most of the imports are coming from Asia and I have been wondering what is preventing the nearby Caribbean and more specifically Trinidad and Tobago from supplying these products which grow like weeds in their backyards. Even if the export of surplus is not the priority right now, I am still very happy to know that the local market will benefit from easier and more affordable access to the beneficial products of the coconut industry. Please bear in mind that even the "waste" products from this industry can be recycled to provide the raw materials for other industries...various decorative craft industries, charcoal for cooking, coconut shell activated carbon for water treatment, potting soil from husks, plant growing medium [fibre for hydroponics and for orchids], coir can be made into twine and rope and used for packaging , stuffing and felting...and the list goes on.

A smooth sip of coconut water.
By Janelle De Souza
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday | Thursday, January 12 2012

It’s common knowledge coconut water is a healthy drink, not only for your daughter, but for most people. That’s because coconut water is composed of many naturally occurring bioactive enzymes that aid in digestion and metabolism.

It is also packed with simple sugar, electrolytes, and minerals to replenish hydration levels in the body... among other things.

However, at $6 a nut and $45 for a two-litre bottle in grocery stores, many people do without the healthy drink and popular alcohol chaser, which is especially inconvenient during the Christmas and Carnival seasons when drinking seems to be a staple activity.

Nonetheless, the St Patrick’s Coconut Growers’ Co-op Society Ltd hopes to change that within the next five years.

According to Pranesh Maharaj, chairman of the Board of the Society, its 60 members hope to replant approximately 5,700 acres of land in Cedros and later build a coconut processing plant with the help of the Government.

At the plant, they intend to use the wet processing method to produce coconut cream, coconut milk, virgin coconut oil, coconut vinegar, etc.

From the shells, activated carbon for air-conditioning units, water distillation and filtration; and organic mulch for food crop farmers from the husk. Naturally, the plant would also include a coconut water bottling facility.

“At 70 trees per acre and 100 nuts per tree annually, we would grow approximately four million nuts per year,” Maharaj explained.

“When we start producing three to five years after planting, we will help drive down the prices, maybe by 50 percent, and make coconut water more affordable to everyone.”

In the 1930s, the coconut industry’s business model consisted of one main processing factory to which farmers sold their nuts.

However, the St Patrick’s Growers, mostly from Cedros, were not among the farmers to benefit economically from that operation, and so could not realise their fullest economic potential.

Therefore, born out of economic deprivation, the St Patrick’s Coconut Growers’ Co-op Society Ltd was established in 1987.

According to Maharaj, who served as on alderman at the Siparia Regional Co-operation in 1996, there soon came a period of inactivity due to the government’s non-policy regarding the redevelopment of the coconut sub-sector.

In addition, the industry began to decline at an accelerated pace and members became de-motivated and inactive, leaving the Cedros plantation in a state of abandonment.

He said Cedros’ economy was based on two economic drivers - fishing and agriculture (coconut).

At the moment, the fishing beds are depleted and fishermen have to go farther out to sea in order to get a good haul. The increased effort and use of gas has caused fish prices to increase.

Maharaj said, up to the late 90s the coconut industry contributed to 50 per cent of Cedros’ economy.

Right now the industry is dead, therefore, he sees the organisation as one of the drivers for the re-establishment of one of Cedros’ Economic Platforms.

When the new Government came into place in 2010 and stated that one of its economic pillars was agriculture, the St Patrick’s Growers decided to take advantage of that opportunity and reactivate, which they did in October 2010 and by June 2011, the organisation was fully reconstituted.

“We realised the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs had an action plan for coconuts. The Ministry’s plan however, had major gaps and so we decided to be part of the process and corresponded with the Ministry since all the stakeholders in the coconut industry were not being consulted,” said Maharaj. “We felt we needed to present our position and so we did a position paper on the industry, giving our views and perspectives.”

The Co-op board met with Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath who decided to form a Coconut Advisory Committee to the Minister, on which the Coconut Growers Association, the Ministry and the Co-op are represented. They have all joined to develop the coconut industry into a robust sub-sector under the theme: Coconut nutritional value is equivalent to a complete food substitute which makes it integral to food security.

“I see the Advisory Committee as a stepping stone to the formation of a regional body called the CCIDB – the Caribbean Coconut Industry Development Board,” said Maharaj. “It will be a powerful regional coconut industry lobby group that would form linkages with the Asian Pacific Coconut Countries (APCC) and other coconut producing countries around the world thereby improving our policy making, the marketing and trade of coconuts, and encouraging the exchange of technology.”

Over the years, in Trinidad and Tobago, coconut redevelopment has not been a focus and so most of the coconut trees are aged, over 70 years old, and so produce less nuts. Research from the St Patrick Growers indicates that, in order to replant, the pests and diseases plaguing the industry in the country, needs to be eradicated. It is also necessary to identify high disease resistant and high yielding varieties of both water and kernel producing varieties of coconut.

“The industry life cycle is approximately 70 years. Under normal bearing conditions, the mature plant in TT produces, on average, 70 nuts per year. But there are other varieties can produce 150 to 200 nuts per year. It’s time to get different, high-yielding varieties into the stream,” said Maharaj.

In order to start the ball rolling on this account, the St Patrick Growers Board has communicated its interest in the sector’s re-development to the Coconut Development Board in India. Working through the India High Commission, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is being developed for the government to approve, sign off on and work out the details.

If the MOA is signed, the country will have access to India’s advanced research and expertise will be provided in the areas of entomology, agronomic best practices, clean and high quality cultivars (seedlings) and other details.

Maharaj estimates the cost to return the abandoned Cedros estates to its previous operational standard at approximately $100 million. This would include the clearing of the land, planting the new strain of seedlings and maintaining the estate for the next three to five years.

In the mean time, according to Maharaj, the Advisory Committee is in the process of putting a strategic plan in place. It is hoped Government develops a policy to enable Unemployment Relief Programme workers to do some agriculture work and offset labour costs.

“The Committee has done a tremendous amount of work getting to this point. How it develops from here depends on how well we articulate their views at the committee level to the benefit of all. However government intervention and political will is what will make it happen,” said Maharaj.

The Co-op understands the potential of the coconut industry and noted that disease and age stunts the expansion of the industry. Its members believe at least 1,000 jobs can be generated in primary production and processing.

“If Government were to assist, given that the industry life cycle is 70 years, the benefits will start to balance off in or before ten years,” Maharaj claimed. “Not only will the Government benefit from the taxes, the socio-economic impact will be greatly felt by all in Cedros… and it may have some export potential too.”
-Members of St Patrick Coconut Growers Co-op Society Ltd

Now, this is progress! I had been trying to avert my gaze from this silk issue, thinking pessimistically that it would go the way of most problems - plenty hot talk that would fizzle out into a cool sigh and inactivity. But then I read this article yesterday:

'Silk' to be abolished? Law body to decide.
By Rickie Ramdass
Trinidad Express Newspapers | Jan 13, 2012 at 1:59 AM ECT

THE recent controversy surrounding the awarding of "silk" to Chief Justice Ivor Archie and Justice of Appeal Wendell Kangaloo has resulted in members the Law Association agreeing on the establishment of a special committee to decide whether or not the awarding of Senior Counsel should be abolished.

The decision was arrived at yesterday following a special general meeting by the association at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

President of the Association Dana Seetahal SC said members of the association had unanimously decided during the meeting that the committee should in fact be appointed to decide on the issue.

"The resolution is that the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago appoint a committee of people drawn from its members to decide whether the appointment of Senior Counsel should be abolished and if not, to make recommendations for and to propose criteria for the appointment of Senior Counsel or the persons eligible for such appointments and the obligations of persons given this honour," she said.

However, Seetahal said she could not give a time frame outlining specifically when the committee would be established or whom its members would include.

"As you know, the association has over 1,600 members so we have not settled on who would be appointed as yet, but it will be decided in a short space of time," she said. Read more...
Well done! I had read and agreed with the comment posted below by reader, darenlyons, in response to the article in the online Express, "Anand to write Max on silk issue." The reader addressed our lingering colonial mentality, what Fela Kuti referred to as Colo-mentality in his song.

50 years after "Independence" we are still concerned and enamored with the trappings of the British Empire ...the title of Senior Counsel has replaced Queens or Kings Counsel as if the nominal switch in title erases our fascination and tethering to the questionable vestiges of former colonial masters. Canada, which is still part of the
Commonwealth (another absurdity) has wrestled with this issue and in Ontario, the practice has ceased....isn't it enough that the Privy Council is ostensibly our highest court and our principal streets, squares and public spaces are named after Colonial masters and proxies. When will Trinidadians snap out of this collective coma and fealty to our colonial past and forge an indigenous, socio-political path framed within our cultural norms, impulses, needs, desires, future plans, mistakes and common narrative, We are having hissy fits about practices that were adopted in our pedestrian and embryonic stages-mainly adopted with sleepy and blurry eyes and as (Naipaul writes) "Mimic Men". Our inept politicians on both sides are versed in replicating outdated traditions we never crafted so mistakes and missteps abound. If we trip up or bump our heads, it should be while finding ourselves and not in the pursuit of self negating imitation. It's incumbent we stop these wig wearing, gown and breech adorning sessions that harken to a time when were effectively "far flung subjects". Let's chart the unknown possibilities of our existence and become real time Trinidadians and reject the varnish of present day serfs."
On another level, the award itself is devalued if the general perception is that it can be dispensed like Holly used to share Crix biscuits during his live shows. Even that was a more transparent process - whoever was near enough, and had the loudest voices or the longest arms would get. But our legal professionals, if they wish to be taken seriously, need their awards to be based on universally agreed upon standards of competence. When I say universally, I am also referring to the location specific requirements of our community of practitioners and teachers in the legal profession. The selection and award process must be transparent and without loopholes or susceptible to troublesome "precedents" which in this case conveniently acquired a sacrosanctity not usually attached to many other actions taken by past administrations.

An Irish saying about the goats in silk dresses goes: "Cuir síoda ar ghabhar ach is gabhar i gcónaí é." It means: Dress A Goat In Silk And He Still Remains A Goat. I am afraid that on so many levels, this award has lost its silky shine because while it may be true that silk cannot change the nature of goats, it is my suspicion that silk is not as immune to the persuasive influence of goatiness. After silk has been appropriated and worn with great determination by goats, it is permanently imbued with a certain unmistakeable pungency. I will not go so far as to say that the silk is forever duttied. To do so would be to run the risk of denigrating the essence of goat which I understand is held in high esteem in certain quarters, so I will say instead that the highness of the award is replaced by something else that is equally high - a scent, or a flavour if you wish, that is undeniably caprine.

So I am not at all disappointed that the legal fraternity seems ready to let the silk go the way of that other national award that was also considered by some to be an anachronism and affront. Take the silk and chuck it into the goat pen. They certainly won't look down their noses at it and since they'd rather eat it than give it back, you won't be saddled with the bother of finding a way to live with that Febreze defying odeur de chèvre.

"And you wearing sateen and I wearing silk...yeah man!
You wearing sateen and I wearing silk
Mih neighbour minding cattle and I drinking milk."
--Dhandaya Narine - "Picker"
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!