Agri Business

Coconut has made a comeback as commercially viable crop: Expert

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on November 07, 2019


After being written off as a dying commodity of a sunset industry for nearly half a century, the humble coconut has struck back, making a strong comeback as an economically viable product.

Urun N Salum, Executive Director, International Coconut Community, Indonesia, attributes its ‘success’ to the bold initiatives taken by industry participants — especially in the global processing segment — by heavily investing in upgrading, improving and increasing the capacity of the factories for greater throughput.

He cited the instance of two large enterprises in Indonesia which have increased capacity to process 4 million nuts per day; they are already running at 50 per cent of that capacity.

Salum, who was in Kozhikode recently for a global coconut conference organised by the Kerala government, pointed out that the number of coconut products has gone up considerably, touching 120 from just around 30 products 15 years ago.


Zooming exports

The collective export value of coconut and coconut products has reached nearly $10 billion, he said. Of this, exports of kernels for commercial utilisation stood at $5.6 bilion, water at $2.7 billion, shell $0.87 billion, and husk $0.24 billion. Coconut water, virgin coconut oil and coconut sugar are the emerging products showing promise, he added.

Indonesia and India consume up to 80 per cent of the products while exporting as little as 20 per cent. But the situation is the other way round in the Philippines, Salum added.

The past few years have seen a steady growth in global export volumes, with newer and higher-value products seen on the global markets, both in edible and non-edible categories.

However, he said, coconut is still a small player in the vegetable oils market — at 1 per cent, it’s last on the list with olive oil.

Among vegetable oils, only coconut oil (CNO) and palm kernel oil (PKO) are lauric oils, containing monolaurin that is considered healthy. Consumers’ choice is most often guided by price. The market for CNO is impacted if its price becomes higher than that of PKO, said Salum.

He further requested processors and producers of high value products to share their profits with the suppliers of raw materials. This would encourage growers to replant senile palms, improve their farm management practices and remain in the industry, he added.

Key constraints

G Jayalakshmi, Chairperson, Coconut Development Board, highlighted the constraints faced by the domestic sector, such as fall in production and productivity. She attributed them to fluctuating prices that discourage investments, rising wages, low availability of labour, small and fragmented land holdings and lack of quality planting materials.

However, the Board, she said, has identified strategies to overcome the challenges. These include the expansion and stabilisation of area under coconut through quality planting material, replanting and rejuvenation of existing coconut gardens through cutting and removal of old palms, and rejuvenation of existing farms and replanting with seedlings.

The annual coconut production in India stands at 23,798.29 million nuts. It covers 2.10 million hectares across 16 States and four Union Territories. The coconut sector contributes $3,568 million to the GDP while the export earnings stand at $686.58 million (0.21 per cent of total export earnings).

Published on November 07, 2019

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