Grenada advances soursoup cultivation

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Dr Abel Reboucas with some of the farmers in Grenada.

Farmers and extension workers trained on good agricultural practices for soursop cultivation and agree on strategy for upgrading the sector to capitalize on the export potential 

Grenada remains the only Caribbean country with approval to export fresh soursop to the United States market. Despite this position, low production is among the issues preventing the consistent export of high-quality soursop in the volumes needed to meet the demands of buyers.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Fisheries and Cooperatives, is working to address this challenge by increasing and improving the production capacity and export of this and other high potential agriculture products. Through FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme, the partners are working on a two-year project to promote competitive, sustainable, and resilient national value chain development in Grenada, focusing on the soursop and sea moss sectors.

Under this initiative, FAO recently conducted a weeklong mission in the country to work with some 120 public and private sector stakeholders on developing the soursop sector. During the week of November 20 to 25, 2023, FAO Production Expert, Dr Abel Rebouças delivered comprehensive soursop production training on good agricultural practices to encourage maximum yields of the fresh fruit. The trainings were conducted in the field and in the classroom and were designed specifically for technicians and farmers.

According to a participant, Joshua Lewis, “the training showed me and the trainees how to increase production in soursop using hand pollination, pruning and fertilizers. Soursop production is an area where Grenada has a distinct advantage being the only country that’s allowed to export fresh soursop into the United States. Nevertheless, Grenada produces less than 1% of the total soursop production. l am looking forward to increasing production and receiving more follow up technical support for the industry.”

In addition, the FAO team also met with the Ministry to assess the state of their main nursery and propagation station, which resulted in several recommendations to upgrade the facility. It is expected that these recommendations will be implemented over the coming months to allow the facility to better support the demand for planting materials from local farmers.

Commenting on the activity was Aaron Francois, Permanent Secretary who stated that “the Ministry of Agriculture was immensely pleased with the weeklong training that was delivered by the FAO consultants on helping Grenada to improve overall production and export in soursop. The information to all of our stakeholders was very timely and appropriate and the Ministry looks forward to continuing to collaborate and support all the efforts to ensure that positive results are realized in our soursop fields and the quality and quantity of fruits that we export as we continue to build our soursop value chain.”

A workshop to validate a five-year Soursop Upgrading Strategy was also led by FAO Value Chains Development Specialist, Jefferson Jaikissoon, during the week. The Strategy was designed by the public and private sector stakeholders earlier this year to improve the functionality and efficiency of the soursop value chain. During the workshop, the stakeholders agreed on four strategic areas including, improving the technical capacities of the production base and access to services to boost supply efficiency, strengthening and sustaining growth through expansion of commercial production, enhancing the efficiency of the mid-supply chain functions and marketing and strengthening the support services and enabling environment for improved coordination and governance of the soursop sector.

Commenting on the development of the sector, Juan Cheaz Pelaez, FAO Trade and Markets Officer for the Caribbean and Lead Technical Officer for the project remarked that, “Grenada has the unique advantage of operating in a niche export market. We are therefore channelling every effort into building the knowledge and technical capacity of value chain stakeholders to encourage sustainable and consistent production of high-quality produce to ensure continued access to the export market”. He added that “FAO’s work to develop a market-oriented soursop value chain, alongside stakeholders, is strategic as it enables public sector agencies to engage effectively with other value chain actors and help to create a better environment for sector development, increased exports, greater private sector investment and stronger incomes over the next five years”.

FAO anticipates that in the coming years the soursop industry, and the agriculture sector in general, will aid the country in transitioning to a more diversified and sustainable economy that supports resilient economic growth.

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