Front Page
June 24, 2005
New coconut water bottling plant opens

In the next three to five years, the shareholders of Palms Ltd. should be “pretty well off.” This prediction was made by a jubilant Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, as he addressed the opening of a coconut water bottling plant on Tuesday.

Palms Ltd., a locally registered company, has as its shareholders the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Mountain Top Springs Ltd., bottlers of the popular Mountain Top Springs water. The million dollar facility is located in the Congo Valley mountain, just outside the northeastern town of Georgetown.{{more}}

And, Government has apparently already begun to address the issue of sustainability of the project. Minister of Agriculture, Girlyn Miguel, in her address said that they have already started a “rapid replanting and rehabilitation of coconut trees. The dwarf yellow, red and green varieties have been targeted. Thirty new acres were planted on 32 farmers’ holdings scattered throughout the three agricultural regions.”

This statement was supported by the prime minister who said that while the existing trees will be able to supply the raw material for the facility, the government is looking at an additional three to 400 acres of the dwarf variety of coconut, as there were plans for further elaboration and expansion of the project within the next three to five years. The prime minister urged farmers to “put in your coconuts. We will then be in a position to make real money.”

Twenty persons will be employed in this pilot project which will initially have a capacity of 3,000 coconuts per day producing 2,400 500 ml. bottles. According to Rohalio DaSilva of Mountain Top, the operation is presently a small one, but once they begin to expand operations, farmers will be invited to buy shares in the company.

In her remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Pamela Browne said she was happy that the Ministry was partnering with the “innovative, dynamic duo, Ro and Ken.” She was referring to Kenneth and Rohalio DaSilva, both engineers, who along with their father Dennis DaSilva, are at the helm of Mountain Top Springs Ltd. The Permanent Secretary continued, “(They are) men with vision, men with focus, men with a radical extravagance of youth on their side.” She urged other members of the private sector to engage in dialogue with the Ministry so that they too can “capitalize on these golden opportunities.”

According to the Chief Agricultural Officer, Philmore Isaacs, the Government’s choice of a private sector partner was made by the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture after a team from both organizations visited and assessed “three to four facilities.” Mountain Top was chosen he said, because they have an existing water bottling facility, two engineers on staff and the Government felt confident working with them.

The plant utilizes “micro-filtration” technology developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), who worked with the Government and Mountain Top to bring the project to fruition. The “micro-filtration” technology removes bacteria while retaining the delicate taste of the coconut water. This extends the shelf life of coconut water to six months. The FAO was represented at the opening by Dr. Barbara Graham who said that this project, which “promotes the strong partnership between the public and the private sector,” was a first for the FAO in the region. Her organization provided equipment, supplies, technical expertise and training.

A new building was constructed by the Government on the premises of Mountain Top Springs for the bottling plant. The day to day operations will be managed by Mountain Top. The bottled coconut water will be branded “Ignition” and bottled in compliance with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HAACP) safety standards.

Fiscal Advisor to the Government, Christian I. Martin, who was referred to by the Permanent Secretary as the “Godfather” of the Ministry of Agriculture, was thanked by both by the Permanent Secretary and by the Chief Agricultural Office, Philmore Isaacs for his unstinting support and valuable advice on the project.