One of Europe’s outermost regions to maximise the potential of its palm trees

The French territory of Guiana is to leverage its natural resources by studying ways to promote the use of its abundant supply of palm trees.

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Fruit of the palm trees. Fruit of the palm trees.

Guiana is one of Europe’s outermost regions located on the North Atlantic coast of South America. Its great distance from the EU and its isolation put it in a disadvantaged position economically. Nonetheless, Guiana is a region of spectacular biodiversity boasting rainforests, mangroves, savannahs, inselbergs and wetlands.

Palm trees, which are the subject of this project, are heavily present in Guiana as 75 of the 180 species recorded in the Amazonian basin grow on its territory. The plant is highly regarded by all parts of the population due to its many uses. Common types of the plant include Euterpe oleracea, Oenocarpus bacaba, Oenocarpus bataua, Astrocaryum vulgare, Attalea maripa and Acrocomia aculeata.

Research for development of industry

This project involves research led by the University of the French West Indies and Guiana into the region’s palm trees. The ultimate goal of the research is to build an indigenous industry around palm trees. In order to do this, research is focusing on studying the physicochemical and genetic characteristics of the tree and evaluating the plant from a biological perspective. Classifying and quantifying the various molecules that may be of interest is central to this. Identifying the most valuable and useful species out of the many that grow in the region is also a necessary part of the research.

The value of the plant, from an agrifoods perspective, is also being studied as part of the research with attention being paid especially to adapting technological tools serving to preserve the biological properties of the plant during processing. Jean-Charles Robinson, senior lecturer in biochemistry, said that “the project brings together a scientifically interesting approach and tangible development in areas such as agrifoods, functional foods, cosmetics etc.”

A tree for all seasons

Through this research, consumers will benefit from the greater diversity of palm-related products on the market. For the citizens of Guiana, the benefits are obvious: An industry based around the palm tree bringing employment to the region and added value to the rest of the economy. As the palm tree is valued by all sections and ethnic groups, the industry therefore has the potential to be a positive force for social cohesion.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Promoting Guiana’s Amazonian palm trees” is EUR 994 000, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 584 000 through of the Operational Programme for French Guiana, priority to develop very high added value and innovative potential, for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date