The West Indian Cherry (Acerola) is a beloved and popular fruit that many have enjoyed for years in its raw form or in fresh juices, jellies, and other preservatives. While the demand for cherry remains strong in the country, especially for use in the fruit juice industry, the country has not been able to maintain a consistent supply.
Although the Guyanese-grown cherry is preferred, some local fruit juice producers have had to rely on imported concentrate to meet their demand.
To address these supply issues, over 170 stakeholders participated in a weeklong Training Programme held from February 7 to 10, 2023.
Among the participants were cherry farmers and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), the New Guyana Marketing Corporation, and the Tropical Orchards Products Company (TOPCO). The training forms part of a project of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) focused on the Sustainable Development of Resilient Value Chains and the Implementation of the CARICOM COVID-19 Agri-Food Recovery Plan.
The training in West Indian Cherry production sought to help the country increase its production of cherries for local market consumption by addressing some of the technical production challenges. Some of the primary areas of focus included good agricultural practices to aid in improving yields and helping farmers to manage Anthracnose, a major disease that affects cherry trees.
Specifically, participants received classroom training and were taken to cherry nurseries to receive hands-on training in orchard management, soil management, irrigation, pruning, fertilization and nutrition, pre- and post-harvest handling, propagation, grafting and pest and disease management.
Chandreka Lall, Cherry Farmer participating in the trainings remarked that he learnt a lot about grafting and budding which will help in his production.
Similarly, Mr Dexter Van-Veen, from TOPCO noted that the trainings were informative, especially regarding the planting material being used, and helped him to realise how cherry production could be improved. He added that he had a good learning experience and that the sessions would be particularly helpful for trainers who will train other farmers.
The trainings were delivered by FAO Tree Crop Expert, Dr Rogério Ritzinger, who will continue to support the National Value Chain team in Guyana in the production of cherry to use the techniques learned during the trainings.
Dr Gillian Smith, FAO Representative for Guyana remarked that “our aim is to help build a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable value chain. By increasing knowledge and skills in good agricultural practices among all stakeholders involved in the chain, Guyana can achieve its objectives of improving its production, in an environmentally responsible way, while promoting food security and the consumption of locally grown produce”.
She concluded that this would also contribute to reducing the CARICOM food importation bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
As FAO continues to support Guyana in building resilient value chains, ensuring a consistent and high- quality supply of produce is an important step in this process.
It is expected that trainers taught during these sessions will train other farmers and share their knowledge with other farmers across Guyana to help further the sustainable production of cherry and build this local industry over the coming years.