The soursop industry has great economic value and has been one of the most yielding export crops in the country recently. However, the Ministry of Agriculture, in its effort to avoid complacency, is strengthening its approach towards maintaining relevance in the industry.
In this respect, a governance structure is being put in place, with help from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as was seen in a Soursop Value Chain Workshop held at the National Stadium on 3 July.
The workshop saw the coming together of a Value Chain Coordinating Committee (VCCC) with the aim of putting together a working group consisting of sector stakeholders to be the governing body of Grenada’s Soursop Sector.
The VCCC consists of soursop farmers, exporters, agro processors, policy makers, and representatives from agri-trade support services.
Grenada’s soursop industry has the advantage of Grenada being the only country that can export the fruit in its fresh form to the United States and in this regard, the FAO has partnered with the ministry to ensure that this remains.
Value Chain Specialist with the FAO, Bree Romuld, explained the significance of the value chain for the soursop industry.
“Soursop is one of those unique commodities in the Caribbean that has huge export potential but although the industry is somewhat organised, it is not reaching the potential that it can reach. This effort today is about bringing people together to start the dialogue, because we have a lot of expertise and knowledge in the country but starting a more coordinated effort to develop the industry to kind of reach the potential that it does have is what is needed,” Romuld said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Elvis Morain stressed the importance of ownership in keeping Grenada’s soursop industry on the top of our minds. “We are grateful that the FAO has basically held our hands up to this point to get us to look at enhancing the Soursop Value Chain. It is for us now to do our part, and therefore, I challenge the foot soldiers in the industry to take this industry seriously. We cannot continue to take comfort in the fact that, ‘oh, well Grenada is the only country that can export the fresh soursop fruit to the US’; that is not enough for us to boast or to feel comfortable about.”
“There are many things we need to do to continue to remain relevant in this trade and that is why ownership is critical, because we need to protect this industry and the road to protecting this industry rests with all of us,” PS Morain remarked.
Acting CEO of the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB), Elvis Young, said the MNIB is rightly positioned to provide expertise in the governance of the soursop industry. “Given the position of MNIB, the current support that MNIB provides for the industry, the relationship between the Ministry of Agriculture, the government, Marketing Board being a statutory body, our involvement with the providers of grants, other support for agriculture, other industry, we have a direct relationship with those institutions. As a result of that, that places us in the ideal position to be at the helm of that governance structure. And the fact that soursop has been declared a specified produce under the MNIB Act, it gives MNIB that responsibility to be that leader in terms of the governance,” he explained.
Value Chain and Marketing Specialist, Roderick St Clair, who is also General Manager of the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA), spoke about the enhancement of farmers’ livelihoods once the sector is developed.
“Soursop is the number 3 export crop in Grenada; it is very important, and it is growing rapidly. Some of our same cocoa and nutmeg farmers are part of this same initiative so that their whole income can be increased if you have a better industry. At the same though, we have to make sure that we guard against pests and diseases, because that is a very important aspect that has Grenada Soursop being the only soursop in its fresh form that can enter the US market,” he said.
Soursop farmer Carl Duncan, who operates a farm in Deblandeau, St Andrew said such an initiative is beneficial to every soursop farmer. “As a farmer, it is important that we organise because if we are going to accrue the benefits of the industry, we must have knowledge. We must understand what affects all the parties in the chain and let them know how their actions benefit us or affect us. It will benefit my farming business because of the number of players here, I will rely on the exporter, I will rely on the Government Extension Officers.
Ministry of Agriculture