Basseterre, St. Kitts (October 12, 2015) — A three-day mango value-added workshop organised for farmers by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) opened Monday morning October 12, at the Taiwanese Agro-Processing Facility, Needsmust.
“We have too many mangoes in St. Kitts and Nevis which go to waste and there are so many products which could be made from the mango,” said Mr Augustine Merchant, IICA Coordinator for the St. Kitts and Nevis office. “It is a resource which is really underutilised. So I want you to commit yourself to ensure that once you leave from here you are going to do something.”
The workshop which is being facilitated by Dr Donald Mercer of the Department of Food Science, University of Guelph in Canada, is attended by 31 farmers from both St. Kitts and Nevis who are into agro-processing.
“One of the things I want to let you know is that I see this workshop as a very important one,” Mr Merchant told the participants. “What I want is that once Dr Mercer leaves, that persons would be doing something either training other people or doing something to make a livelihood.”
He advised that Dr Mercer will make a return visit next year sometimes in January/February, and that he would do more training while at the same time looking at what they have been doing.
“What I am hopping is to request some of the supermarkets and other people who may have an interest in those products to come and see what, and possibly sample, some of the products,” said Mr Merchant. “So I want you to promise, and I going to promise myself, that you are going to work over the three days to make some products.”
According to Mr Merchant, IICA’s headquarters in Costa Rica normally invites new ministers of agriculture from the 34-member states once they get to office for them to get to appreciate what IICA stands for, what it can do, and get an overall idea about the development of agriculture in the hemisphere and what role IICA can play in that area.
It was while in Costa Rica earlier this year that the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon Eugene Hamilton, made a request and the three-day workshop taking place at Needsmust is the IICA response to that particular request.
Mr Merchant noted that in getting a facilitator for the workshop his office collaborated with their office in Canada where the person in charge, who is an agro-food technologist, recommended Dr Donald Mercer.
“She put us to Dr Mercer and we had a number of discussions that also included Mrs Andrea Morton, manager of the government agro-processing facility,” said Mr Merchant. “Mrs Morton was very helpful throughout all the discussions we have had, and so we have this workshop here and I want to congratulate her.”
The workshop aims at improving income-earning opportunities for small producers/processors by building capacity in value-added production; to support local utilisation for enhanced food and nutrition security; and to increase the capabilities of local stakeholders to ensure agricultural health and food safety for market access and participation.
Activities and topics to be discussed during the workshop include, Reasons for Drying Fruits and Vegetables, Factors Influencing Quality, Preparation of Materials, Blanching of Fruits and Vegetables, Types of Dryers, and Wet Basis Moisture vs Dry Basis Moisture.
Others are Basic Moisture Calculations, Factors Influencing Drying, Conducting a Drying Run, Mango Powder Preparation, Trail Mix Product Development, and Compendium of Mango Based Products.
Mr Merchant thanked the Taiwanese Mission for accepting to have the workshop held at their Agro-Processing Facility in Needsmust. The workshop will close on Wednesday around noon with a display of what the workshop participants will have produced.
Facilitator, Dr Donald Mercer, said he was glad to be invited and thanked all those who made his trip possible. He gave the group a copy of a book, The Dehydrator Bible, which he has co-authored with colleagues Jennifer MacKenzie and Jay Nutt. He handed the book over to Mrs Andrea Morton, manager of the government agro-processing facility.
“We put it together about six years ago,” said Dr Mercer. “It has numerous recipes in it, but what it does is it instructs you in drying various fruits and vegetables and herbs, and it is designed for people who do drying work in their home and have no formal training for doing this stuff, and it has been very successful.”
Representing the Minister of Agriculture the Hon Eugene Hamilton, who was away on government duties, was Mr Melvin James, the Director of Agriculture. He led the workshop participants in the morning’s invocations. Also present was Mrs Ingrid Greene-Mills, the IICA Assistant Executive Secretary.