THE COCONUT Board has acquired new harvesting equipment, called a tree climber, which it projects will cut the cost of reaping the crop by one-third.
Those savings in dollar terms amount on average to $1,200 per tree, or $10 to $15 per coconut, says Coconut Board Chairman Christopher Gentles. The equipment will replace human labour.
“The climber will increase productivity and it does not damage the tree, unlike the climbing spikes,” Gentles said.
The agency previously acquired 20 tree climbers, and recently bought another at a cost of $46,000, but Gentles says they believe they can cut the price in half, based on the board’s expectations of a recalculation and downward revision of the duties it previously paid. The board is buying another 100 climbers at a cost of US$9,000, which translates to $1.23 million at current exchange rates. The equipment is sold to member growers.
“The board has approved 100 new climbers at a cost of some US$9,000 and we are awaiting the invoice to understand the customs duty. We believe that we paid almost 50% duty out of a lack of understanding the last time,” he said.
“On the basis that we are shipping a larger quantity, the shipping cost will be spread among a lot more climbers, and getting the duty reduced, we will offer a better price.”
For the year ending December 2018, Jamaica reaped 129.4 million coconuts. Gentles said that based on the price paid by the board for the nuts, the sector is now valued at $5.82 billion. That implies an average price of around $45 per coconut.
For 2019, Gentles said five per cent growth is projected for the sector, but says the estimate is largely dependent on the climate, diseases, agronomic practices and other factors.
Jamaica currently has about 40,000 acres of land under coconut, and 43,000 growers. The Coconut Board now wants to add another 60,000 acres, mainly in eastern Jamaica, and is collaborating with private companies Seprod, Fred M. Jones Estate and CB Group on the initiative.
Coconuts are sold locally and exported in the form of dry coconuts, jelly coconuts and seed coconuts.
A small amount of Jamaica’s coconuts was exported in 2018, Gentles said, without stating the volumes.