Coconut-based products made in Dominica, such as coconut cheese and virgin coconut oil, will be placed under the microscope with the aim of making them more ready for the international market.
It is all part of efforts to revive the coconut industry in Dominica.
For the second time the Dominica Manufacturer’s Association (DMA) is collaborating with the University of Dayton, Ohio, for an Industrialization and Commercialization of Coconut Products for Sustainable Economic Growth and Prosperity Strategic Project, which will last for 10 weeks.
First Vice President of the DMA, Severin McKenzie, said five students from the university, who are in the fields of Chemical and Mechanical Engineering and Communication, will be working hand in hand with local producers.
At the end of the 10-week period, it is expected that methods of production will be improved, packaging and marketability will be enhanced to meet international standards and an increase in the volume of the product for the export market will be pursued.
“Eleven small producers of coconut cheese have registered to participate in the program,” McKenzie said.
A competition will be held at the end of the program to determine the best three products.
The first prize winner will receive EC $1,500, second prize, $800 and third prize, $500 will be awarded together with possible marketing contracts.
Monetary prizes are made compliments the University of Dayton.
Participants are from Eggleston, Belles, Bath Estate, Salisbury, Portsmouth Secondary School, Community High School, 4-H Club of St Mary’s Academy and Trafalgar.
The students will be visiting the participants at their homes and some sessions will be held at the Roseau Youth Center.
President of the DMA, Jean Yves Bonaire, said the association intends to work with farmers to revive the coconut sector.
“Beyond this program what we are trying to achieve is to see how we can learn to work together with the ministry, with other stakeholders, and through this exercise we learn how we can regroup our resources to make something happen,” he said. “Beyond this program also, there is the possibility for the farmers to revive our coconut industry on plantations.”
He said there is a program at the OECS level that has been launched with some money available and it is important that Dominica grab a slice of the pie.
In 2014, the DMA collaborated with the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service Learning (ETHOS) Programme of the University of Dayton, Ohio through the emersion of four students, in the field of Chemical & Mechanical Engineering and Business, at the Believers Multi -Purpose Cooperative in Woodford Hill, which are the main producers of virgin coconut oil on the island.
“From all reports the exchange was very successful with the Believers Multi-Purpose Cooperative indicating a 15 percent increase in production,” McKenzie said.
The Cooperative intends to match that increase this year.
The president of the University of Dayton is expected to visit the island at the beginning of August for further collaboration with the stakeholders involved in the programme and the DMA has its eye set on the 12000 students enrolled at the University of Dayton as the first potential U.S. market for the products.