Agri Business

Virgin coconut oil: A hidden jewel in coconut sector

A J Vinayak Mangaluru | Updated on September 01, 2021

CPCRI develops a hot process-based VCO technology to popularise the oil in domestic and export markets

The World Coconut Day is being celebrated on September 2 every year. Most of the times, the stakeholders in coconut sector focus more on coconut and to some extent on coconut oil.

Though there is scope for value-addition, it is yet to get momentum among the stakeholders in coconut sector in the country. The value-added products would help farmers get good returns for their crops, and develop entrepreneurs in the coconut sector.

While people are aware of coconut oil — one of the major edible oils preferred in Kerala and coastal parts of Karnataka — virgin coconut oil (VCO), another product from coconut, is yet to gain momentum.

KB Hebbar, Head of Plant Physiology, Biochemistry and Post Harvest Technology at the Kasaragod-based Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), told BusinessLine that VCO refers to the process of preparation of coconut oil from mature coconut kernel-derived fresh coconut milk by mechanical or biological (microbial fermentation) processes with or without the use of heat. This process is devoid of refining, bleaching or deodorisation (RBD) processes, which, a normal coconut oil undergoes.

Basically, VCO is extracted from the milk and not from the copra.

He said though there are various methods of VCO production, CPCRI has developed a hot process-based VCO technology. This technology utilises a double-jacketed cooker, developed exclusively for this purpose, which ensures uniform and controlled spread of heating to the coconut milk during the process of VCO production. Further, VCO produced following CPCRI’s technology has relatively high content of polyphenols.

Till date, CPCRI has commercialised this technology to 55 entrepreneurs, he said. As of now, it is prepared in small scale when compared to other edible oils. But there is scope to explore its potential.

Health benefits

VCO preserves most of its inherent biochemical properties that accords it with immense nutraceutical and medicinal value, as it is produced in a wet process under controlled temperature conditions.

The sensory attributes of VCO reveals that it has aroma of roasted coconut, aroma of cooked coconut with sweet sensation, nutty and rancid aroma which adds to the increasing demand for it, Hebbar said.

SV Ramesh, Senior Scientist at CPCRI, said VCO has been recognised as a functional food and its demand continues to increase. Scientific studies have reported that VCO significantly reduces the bad cholesterol components, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol along with increase in good cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol of serum and tissues, he said.

Of late, clinical trials have been successfully conducted to explore the nutraceutical properties of coconut oil including its cardio-protective, neuroprotective (in the treatment of Alzheimer's’ disease, dementia).

Potential

Anitha Karun, Director of CPCRI, told BusinessLine that VCO has a greater potential in the international market, especially in European countries. VCO and its derivatives (especially monolaurin) have been analysed for effective and safe antiviral agents. It has got anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties also. These factors are leading to the increase in its acceptance in the European market. VCO is now gaining acceptance in India also, she said.

The ODOP (one district one product) scheme of the Government has also given thrust on this particular product. The facilities include the subsidy for production related aspects, provision for common processing centres, packaging, branding and assistance for marketing, she added.

Published on September 01, 2021

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