· Audley Shaw
Anticipation is high ahead of today's annual general meeting (AGM) of the Coconut Industry Board (CIB) at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston where Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw is expected to share with coconut growers his take on their business plan for growing the industry.
"I think he's going to make some major pronouncements, which includes some tweaks to our business development plan, actually, two modifications. One of them will refer to the costing and shaping of the CIB, for which the original idea was to repeal the Coconut Industry Act.
"Now they are giving new thought as to how that will be dealt with, with a view to retaining the law in its current state and retaining the board, minus its regulatory powers, to effect the long-term development mandate of the country," an insider told The Gleaner yesterday.
Granville Marsh, a long-standing coconut grower-director, was equally optimistic about today's proceedings, based on a briefing Shaw held with CIB directors this week in which he promised to get the requisite go-ahead from Cabinet to put the plan into action.
"It was a good meeting and he (Shaw) sounded positive. So he is supposed to come back with some good things for us tomorrow (today). Everything is going down the right road. The minister is more responsive," Marsh said.
This represents the first positive development in the relationship between the Government and coconut growers since last year's AGM when then agriculture minister Karl Samuda went public with his hard-line stance that the Seprod shares owned by the CIB were the property of the State. He subsequently refused to sign off on the strategic business and capital expenditure plan of the CIB and also initiated court proceedings in order to have his way.
Shaw, who has declared that he has no intention of standing in the way of the CIB's plans for promotion and rebranding of the industry will, however, seek concessions from the coconut growers on at least two key areas today.