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Friday, Aug 13, 2004

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Demand for coconut products set to continue

G.K. Nair

Kochi , Aug. 12

GLOBAL demand for coconut and coconut products has increased considerably in recent years and it is expected to continue in tune with the growth in world population.

According to Dr P. Rethinam, Executive Director of the Jakarta-based Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), it has been assessed that the increase in demand per annum in the next 5 to 10 years will be: for desiccated coconut 9 per cent, fresh coconuts 5 per cent, coconut milk 45 per cent, activated carbon 45 per cent, coir dust 100 per cent, besides an eight-fold increase in coir products.

The consumption will also increase in both edible and industrial uses of coconuts. Uses of coconuts and its products as functional foods, nutriceutical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics as well as bio-fuel have greater market in the years to come.

"The use of medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid in producing antiviral, antifungal, antiprotozoal and antimicrobial medicines, particularly use of lauricidin in the cure of HIV/AIDS virus would go a long way in creating the market potential for coconut oil and virgin coconut oil," Dr Rethinam claimed.

While the conventional food sector has an expected growth rate of 1 to 3 per cent that of functional foods is growing at a rate of 7-8 per cent.

By 2010, the most industrial countries Western Europe (34 per cent), the US (34 per cent) and Japan (25 per cent) would account for 90 per cent of the total estimated market size, he said.

Coconut oil and its products with medium chain fatty acids have a greater role, therefore, to play in the fast developing functional foods sector, particularly that of baby foods, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals etc., he said.

However, according to Dr Rethinam, the tariff and non-tariff barriers are affecting the free trade of coconut products. Despite the liberalisation of trade with targets set towards reaching a new world order of free trade, "obstacles still exist for free movement of coconut products in international markets", hampering the expansion of markets for these products.

The industry has to tap the full potential of coconut as a renewable resource, which could be used to generate a range of environment friendly, natural products, with a wide variety of end-uses and applications, he added.

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