Integrated Coconut Processing
Kernels + shells + husks
High value products
Shortened value chains
see coir on jute and hard fibres
The world is not running out of coconuts, despite the scaremongers claiming that ageing tree populations are leading to a steady decline and even growing shortage, the evidence is to the contrary. There has been a steady increase in area and production over the past 50 years in which time production has more than trebled. There are ageing palms as well as the increase below brought about through increase in area as well as enhancement of productivity. A serious decline results from a disease like Lethal Yellow for which there is no known cure. It has swept the Caribbean in waves and devastated the region which was formerly a major producing area. The same problem is now afflicting Mozambique and threatens Tanzania.
It is impossible to count the number of coconuts being produced in a region, country or even area. As a result there are grave discrepancies in statistics and sometimes outlandish claims as to coconut productivity (published data on India varies from just over 10 billion coconuts per annum according to FAO to 24 billion according to the Coconut Development Board in India). The area planted is usually known or is easy to calculate. It is best counted in an Agricultural Census. The number of palms per unit of area is known often only as an average by local agricultural authorities. The number of coconuts per palm can only be an average from samples normally reported by extension services. Normally, coconut production has been estimated based on use for production of copra or desiccated with 6,000 coconuts estimated to result in one ton of copra and 10,000 for one ton of crude coconut oil. In this case, the volume of products is usually known particularly if it is exported. Some accuracy for estimates can be from triangulating the different factors. It does lead to peculiar results as coconuts fed to animals, in the way of an illustration, often do not figure in national statistics as in Samoa where a large number are fed to pigs. Coconuts not harvested are seldom counted and not including them in the count results in misleading low yield rates
Not all the coconuts produced each year, around 70 billion or 65,000 tons, according to FAO, are harvested let alone consumed. Our own estimate is around 75 billion coconuts per annum. Many are left where they fall either because the fields are not accessible or because they are surplus to requirement at that location at that time. Those not accessible include coconuts on remote often sparsely inhabited islands or growing far from roads in difficult terrain. Often such nuts are not included in national data. However, the vast majority are accessible. We like to know more accurately how many there are, where and what happens to them. As such it has given us a unique global view which we claim to be cutting edge. Our figures often differ from national data or FAO published figures. In our experience, APCC figures tend to be more credible since member states take annual returns seriously although they reflect national data.
Coconuts are a smallholder crop, over 95% are on plots of land owned by small farm holdings. There are some larger farms and even plantations but these are rare and often not commercially viable. Small farmers look after their coconuts or neglect them requiring low inputs and profits when sold. Unilever used to have plantations in the Solomon Islands centred on Yandina but gave it up as outside their core area and not very profitable. Some in Brazil today are under the illusion that plantations are a good idea but it is an illusion. Such illusions are often justified by exaggerated claims as to potential productivity per ha.
Mostly coconuts were either planted a long time ago or planted themselves as nuts that germinated where they fell or were washed up. Coconuts grow in locations where not much else will grow or can survive the often extreme conditions. Since they do not require much tending, there is no reason to get rid of them, even if they are not being used or consumed. A large number of nuts are indeed consumed by those who live under them or in the communities.
This can take the form of harvesting nuts that are immature, called green nuts, which have only or mainly liquid inside as tender coconut water. Packed in a natural aseptic package and full of nutrition and goodness, no one can starve under the coconuts. The quality and characteristics of coconuts evolve with age of maturity. Tender coconut water is a unique drinking nut. Slightly older nuts are known as jelly nuts, considered a delicacy in many countries. Green coconut shells have limited use and 10 month old husks can be used to extract a green fibre.
When mature, they are harvested from the palms for a variety of purposes, including for those who live under the palms for cooking with expressed milk or oil or eating the meat. Most of the needs for daily survival can be met by 1.5 coconuts per day per person. Alternatively, mature coconuts can be collected when they drop to the ground.
A further distinction is that if harvested immature or fresh when mature, the nut can be classified as 'wet' nut consumption, i.e. fresh nut consumption. In this form, the coconut has no rivals for nutrition or use value. If the coconut is allowed to drop and left for days or split and allowed to dry, we call it 'dry nut' consumption. Drying the meat into copra is a preliminary to squeezing it for oil which is by and far the leading commercial use for coconuts. The proportion of nuts that are consumed dry and wet is estimated by us as follows
in '000 tons:
The 30 billion dry nuts harvested globally in the end yield around 6 million tons of copra, with a target of 3.6 million tons of coconut oil and 2.3 million tons of coconut meal, used mainly as animal feed. This sector is the backbone of the coconut industry but is a poor industry that pays farmers less than 2 US cents per coconut or $100 per ha. The farmer makes nothing since costs exceed revenues, copra driers, traders, shippers, oil mills all fare rather better. Farmers harvest only as a means of generating marginal cash income for immediate requirements. The near 30 billion coconuts used for oil every year have not had higher value alternatives. It is a bulk commodity sector which is part of the global edible oils industry. In the latter, coconut oil secures a premium in most years over other oils like soy, palm, cotton seed, safflower and sunflower but not as high a premium as is secured by groundnut or olive. The edible oils market is dominated by palm and soy oils by a very long way.
Traditional Value Chain
The low return to farmers is not a result of conspiracy or exploitation, merely a result of the value chain dictated by the world market. There is no clever way around it. So many have tried subsidies, stabilisation, price controls etc. but none can work. The inescapable logic is that it is a poor crop when used for copra based coconut oil. Any tinkering in the way of organic certification, fair trade, RBD gets nowhere because it does not alter the commodity status of the oil. It does lead to a minor improvement but that is often greatly exaggerated. Copra does not even allow mature coconut water to be harvested and that throws away half the potential revenue from the kernel. The alternative lies in using coconuts for higher value products, the closest to crude or refined coconut oil being virgin coconut oil and/or through by-product utilisation.
Why then do 30 million metric tons of coconuts end up processed for copra? On one side, there are not enough developed markets for all the coconuts grown. The latter is no longer as much a matter of choice but rather an outcome with coconuts surplus to requirements growing with no alternative uses for the land used. Coconuts often grow in areas where no other commercial crop on an equivalent scale would grow. On the demand side, there is a ready established market in the form of copra oil that can use as many nuts as are harvested but at a price that allows the resulting oil to be viable.
The commodity nature of copra and coconut oil which has an assured market at all times, even though the price fluctuates widely, has led to a focus on the part of farmers, traders, exporters as well as their Governments that amounts to a commodity fetish. They are too habituated to the low value exports to think outside the box and invest in a new future. This inertia has two exceptions. One has been coir production from mainly South Asia which is deeply rooted in local traditions and culture and some use of fresh coconuts for desiccated and milk production with water increasingly being used.
Coconuts are mainly an edible oil source. Aside from 28,226 tons being used for traded copra-oil, we estimate a further large volume that is used fresh for the extraction of oil or milk for cooking purposes. This latter form is particularly popular in India and Indonesia. Oil extracted from fresh nuts is called Klentic oil in Indonesia but is also referred to as fresh oil. It is akin to virgin coconut oil but is heat extracted.
Wet nuts are consumed fresh, processed into water, milk, oil, desiccated or a host of derivatives. Part of fresh consumption is not paid for but imputing a value based on what others pay for fresh coconuts leads to a farm gate price which is substantially higher than that for copra nuts. Wet nuts are normally worth more than 3-4 times dry nuts at farm gate. If consumed fresh the yield averages at around $400 per ha.
The returns to farmers per ha from coconuts are very low when compared to some alternative crops but coconut palms do not preclude other uses of the land under the coconuts or indeed additional income from using labour time for other uses. Nearly all coconut growers do not depend on income from coconuts as the only source of livelihood or they are at subsistence level. Those who advocate plantations are faced with this dilemma and that is why there are very few coconut plantations in the world. There have been attempts as in the case of Unilever Plantations in the past and groups in Mexico and Brazil today using hybrids but that is a long discussion.
We believe strongly that coconut production can be far more remunerative and have proposed a model where farmers could earn 25 cents per nut or $1,250 per ha in the Pacific project we are trying to get off the ground at present. It requires farmer participation in returns downstream.
Together, wet and dry, coconuts are roughly a $10 billion sector at farm gate and $40 billion at factory gate.
Demand for coconut water and milk products has been growing at an icreasing rate for the past five years. It is now becoming an unstoppable bandwagon. High value kernel products today probably account for 2 billion coconuts per annum. Brazil cannot produce more and so turned to Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia to make up the shortfall for coconut water. Asian producers realised they had been throwing away mature coconut water when processing desiccated or milk and have started mixing with tender water or merely sweetening it. This process is nearing completion with much of the mature water that can be captured being captured.
India has been the elephant in the room that was not participating but is now testing the waters. Despite being the third leading producer of coconuts in the world, India remained backward in aseptic high value products mainly because of an ill-conceived policy of protecting domestic coconut oil that has resulted in a local price that is twice world market rates. This distorted the signals from the market. However, with falling consumption of coconut oil and rising standards of living, Indian entrepreneurs, often new to coconuts, are planning production of coconut water and VCO. Ultimately, it is expected that there will be substantial demand within the country.
The market is dominated by US consumption for water and South-East Asian consumption of milk. Four brands dominate the American water market and supplying them determines the global value chain. We are clearly in an entirely new situation where the leading mainstream food industry corporations are investing in coconuts. Leading multinationals such as Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Asahi, Nestle and Dr Pepper are now all in the coconut food business. The first two are prioritising coconut water while Nestle is still with powdered coconut milk. It will not be long before Nestle turns to water.
Another change just about to take place is the use of VCO for treating altzheimer. If this were to go ahead, VCO would have to be produced commercially instead of a small scale. One major Philippine producer of milk is already producing VCO on a commercial scale while a whole host of SMEs do it on a very small scale.
ALL THIS ABOVE WAS FORESEEN A LONG TIME AGO. BACK IN 1981 VINAY CHAND AND AAPO SAASK WERE PUBLISHING A QUARTERLY KNOWN AS 'COCONUT INDUSTRIES'. A specimen pdf is attached at the bottom of this page.
The EU regional coconut development formulation study on the Pacific was completed at the end of March 2012. It followed a Roundtable on strategy organised by APCC in Fiji. Investment funds are intended from the Intra ACP envelope at EU. A detailed feasibility analysis recommended projects likely to require an investment of over 40 million Euros. The next step is to agree funding by EU/ACP.
The EU has a Technical Assistance fetish at present. They only finance TA in theory although they have financed pilot plants and schemes in the past and have published advice to consultancies to work more actively with the private sector and be prepared to assist investment. This TA fetish, which is shared by many donors, can lead to a willingness to spend more studying and lecturing on a capital investment than the cost of the investment itself. To illustrate, over US$ 750,000 has been spent over the years looking at high value coconut products in the Pacific and, $7 million have just been allocated for doing the same including the Caribbean and the Pacific for an investment that will cost $6 million. Absurd beyond reason. Someday, someone will open their eyes and see what they have been doing.
The EU has also yet to accept the model the Pacific feasibility report proposed of using grant funding directly to the private sector in return for conditions that would ensure a sharing of benefits although they are at last listening. The model proposed has now been amended with reimbursable grants to the private sector and speedy transfer of ownership to the farmers. The best that can be expected is implmentation early this year starting with Vanuatu.
A similar study for the Caribbean has been completed but with technical defects and muddled thinking in the TOR that are almost certain to result in nothing. The study recommends Technical Assistance but EU has proposed that ITC manages the task. EU does not appear to understand the difference between TA in the form of workshops, TA in the form of fighting disease and pilot plants. ITC undertook participatory strategy formulation under AAACP and mainly recommended tubers, coconuts and cacao and persuaded EU to let them manage all programmes on the three irrespective of what needs to be done. Sounds like a sure recipe for disaster but the political Caribbean representatives appear happy with the arrangement.
If management and administration of the three commodities is handed to ITC and DEVCO is not willing to reconsider, it effectively means that there can be no development in the three sectors financed by the EU because of a bureaucratic obsession with out sourcing. ITC only delivers TA and not physical projects. Moreover, ITC is not trusted in the Pacific Region coconut sector due to the Governance deficiencies apparent during implementation of AAACP.
As a direct and provable result of the initiative we took with CL Agencies and the Ambassador Joy of Vanuatu to the EU, the Caribbean was allocated 3.75 million Euros although it ends up with CARDI and ITC, 1.75 million ended up with SPC in the Pacific and 1.75 million is being argued about between Samoa and Vanuatu. On paper, the initiative was a great success. In reality nothing has been allocated yet that will lead to a single dollar extra income for farmers, no extra products and no poverty alleviation. The EU is instead developing regional institutions for its own sake. Unfortunately, development of an institution may be great for the staff who are beneficiaries and may share some benefits with national representatives, it does not lead to economic development.
High Value Coconut Product Marketing
Although tens of millions of farmers are growing 70 billion coconuts (our rough estimate although official figures tend to quote 65 million tons and convert them into around 54 billion nuts but it is all rather absurd since no one weighs the numbers of coconuts produced), many of whom have no alternative suitable crop, the rate of return is very poor. By any measure, there are an awful lot of coconuts. Production estimates on coconuts are very questionable. Even the production figures for Indonesia and philippines are open to question. Maybe we should go by area grown as it is more likely to be accurate around 10 million ha. If the 54 billion figure is correct, it means that the average yield is around 5,000 per ha which we feel is on the low side especially as it is normally based on 50 nuts per 100 palms per ha which is again on the low side.
No one lives off income from a small coconut farm, they have to undertake some other activity. Not all coconut products are poorly rewarded. But traditionally copra production gave meagre returns. Production of milk, cream, skimmed milk, VCO, water, rubberised coir and activated carbon opened up new possibilities.
Vinay Chand Associates is establishing a company that will specialise in selling high value coconut products, starting off in Europe but with an intention to go global. Fair Trade status will be sought and prices paid will try to be better than required for that status. Only high value products will be sold and the intention is to use market financial leverage to assist in capital investments to produce high value coconut products.
The requirements will be that only high value coconut products would be considered, technology, machinery and management must lead to the highest possible standards and business must be conducted to the highest moral and ethical stanadrds. In return the trading company will pay well above the rates paid by others and would work with entrepreneurs in deciding what to produce and how.
Most of the products that will be considered are already being produced but production is usually to a variety of standards. In the way of illustration, canned coconut milk will not be marketed, only aseptic milk will be handled. Similarly, bottled tender coconut water is not going to be sold. However, some of the products that will be promoted are not yet in commercial production.
The idea is for the coconut community to develop higher value markets and thus increase the profile and value of coconuts. A brand identity will be developed that guarantees highest possible standards. There will be research and development leading to production of products that are not on sale today as well as those which are.
The global coconut sector is in the middle of undergoing radical changes.
Despite a fall in prices from the abnormally high levels reached in 2008 for all edible oils, it is unlikely that coconut oil will fall to the lowest levels known in prior years. Coconut oil FOB has fallen below $900 per ton nominal value from over $2,000. This is in line with edible oil prices in general and has nothing whatever to do with anything unique to coconuts.
The world market price for coconut oil is not very far from a tipping point where people will reluctantly consider using it as a fuel. On remote islands, the cost of freight for mineral oil already means coconut oil is far cheaper than diesel. Can we really blame the Solomon Islanders, for example, for considering using it as fuel at US$ 800 per tonne instead of the meagre US$ 250 they obtain for their copra or 600 for oil FOB. Clearly, there has to be a balance between protecting food and obtaining fair prices.
The strategy that Fiji and the oil mill in Santo are following is to target organic RBD instead of crude oil. Our calculations would indicate that with high freight rates Fiji will concentrate on the domestic edible oils market and the IFC supported oil mill in Santo will actually try to sell coconut oil as biodiesel but may not be viable and will definitely not enrich farmers. It may enrich the utility but that requires a level of efficiency that is unlikely to be achieved. The paradox of the situation is that IFC is actually going to invest global development grant funds that will end up keeping farmers poor. Such an error of judgement is unusual for the usually prudent IFC and is difficult to understand. Moreover, the oil mill they will try to save is actually owned by an Australian investor.
There are alternatives, in the form of higher value products. Zico, ONE and Coco Vita have set the pace with their water from green coconuts. Their sales have grown and high prices secured witha great deal of fanfare. Their prices are too tempting to resist for potential producers. Others will enter the foray and coconut water will develop into a major end-use. It would be easy to sell three times more and may be possible to go well beyond that now that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola have bought the two trailblazers and there is a lot of interest in the Far East to produce water. There are many who have long advocated developing coconut water as a drink. FAO has been researching use of bottled water and only part of their findings have yet been released. Developing markets like India and China may be possible with major implications for the coconut sector.
There is also milk and a whole series of derivative products that could be developed. It may even be time to start producing virgin coconut oil in larger quantities. We already have coconut kifir and other nutritional products being developed.
There are also development with by-products. Coir production is around the 800,000 ton mark. Peat is around 350,000 tons and mulch is setting the pace. With some good backing a move towards higher values is very possible. What was required is for someone to promote the coconut product. GTL is doing just that. In some countries husks will have the same value as coconuts. As an average, they already do! Coconut shell charcoal is at higher prices than ever before.
Coconuts are rapidly becoming a two main product commodity, the kernel and the husk. In primary processing terms coconut kernels are far ahead but rubberised coir is the most precious single coconut product. China appears to be setting the pace, producing milk in Hainan and rubberised coir mattresses.
For remote islands, exporting copra generally means that the FOB price is FOB Manila, less freight, less trading margin, leading to a very low price because freight is very expensive. In the solomon Islands, export is at around $600 per ton for copra. If expressed as oil, it could replace diesel which is valued at up to $800 per ton. Biofuel is therefore alive and kicking and inevitable. There is an ADB/FAO study about to begin on the subject in the Solomon Islands.
Similarly, only 12% of the husks are being used. Some others do serve residual functions as mulch but there is a huge number of husks that can not be used. One alternative is to burn them for energy. It is possible to develop a rural sustainable decentralised electricity generation system based on coconut husks. A higher value is obtained at present from burning than from simple coir fibre.
There are three main coconut product categories:
HUSKS SHELLS KERNELS
- burn, - handicrafts, - fresh,
- mulch - charcoal, - copra,
- coir and peat, - flour, - oil and meal,
- processed coir, - activated carbon. - milk,
- rubberised coir, - water,
- mattresses, - edible copra,
- car seats - virgin oil.
Husk products can actually be worth far more than kernel ones and, in any case, there is no reason why farmers should not be able to sell husks and nuts at roughly the same price, thus doubling their incomes.
In the next 5 years, VCA anticipates the following scale of changes:
Coconut water to increase production,
Peat to increase by over 20%,
Coir to increase by 10%,
Rubberised coir use to rise by over 10%,
Virgin coconut oil to triple,
Milk to increase 10%.
The result will be that over 150 million farmers will double what they get for their coconuts at farm gate. Hundreds of millions of dollars of extra income for the sector as a whole. There has been a seismic change in market conditions in favour of coconuts.
Amongst high value coconut products, we include:
Rubberised coir mattresses
Rubberised coir car seats
Tender coconut water
Coconut milk products
Coconut wood products
Virgin coconut oil
Anhydrous coconut oil
Aside from the mainstream global market and development practitioners, the change in perception towards coconuts and coconut products is being led by genuine healthy oriented consumer groups as can be found at: These groups are doing much to change the Soya lobby inspired attack on Lauric oils, including coconut products. There are also many blogs on the virtues of virgin coconut oil that point the way to subtantial future market developments. These are early adopters on health and nutrition grounds and we can draw strength from them.
Interest is a two way process. I find these groups to be fascinating, I now find that people visit this web site from those groups, so clearly they are interested in the wider implications of what they are leading with.
Early in the Consultancy career Vinay Chand became an advocate of higher value processing for coconuts by means of making use of all parts of the nuts for high value products. This is not the same as what a .large number of people who use such expressions mean by whole nut processing or even integrated coconut processing. Their use of these terms is quite crude compared to what we mean by it. Vinay Chand was on the Editorial Boards of two Newsletters published from Sweden published by Aapo Saask, the first being known as 'The International Coir Development Newsletter'. later known as 'Coconut Industries'. Years later, Vinay was also on the Editorial Board of 'Coconut Wireless', published from Seattle, USA by Al Hannsvold.
This advocacy led to a large number of consultancies dealing with coconuts including countries which account for over 80% of annual production. They included:
Indonesia Philippines India Sri Lanka Malaysia Kenya
Thailand Papua New Guinea Mexico Venezuela Samoa
Vanuatu Guyana Bangladesh Jamaica Dominica
St. Vincent St. Lucia Barbados Dominican Republic Ghana
Comoros Cambodia Liberia Solomon Islands Vietnam
Recent activity (2009) has been a paper to the roundtable on the Pacific Region organised by the APCC at which Vinay presented a paper on consumption and markets for cocconut products and a consultative workshop on a sector strategy in the Solomon Islands. Both went down very well and there were two workshops - one in the Western Province and one on Malaita followed by a national one on Honiara in October. For own reasons ITC took over total control, made the process last years and led to a dead end.
It has not mattered since Vanuatu stepped into the situation, preventing disaster by promoting a regional coconut development project that Vinay Chand has now formulated. One of the four projects being developed is the one in North Malaita that was being developed with ITC but which they did everything to try to prevent for reasons understood only by themselves. Thus the regional project can be said to have resulted from ITC's gross ineptitude.
There are many varieties of coconuts, some natural, others developed by human intervention. There are market variations in shapes and sizes as well as in taste. There are varieties that are favoured for particular forms of consumption such as tender water. The shape and size is important as it affects the balance of fibres that can be extracted from coconut husks and some shells are thicker than others making them more suitable as charcoal.
Unfortunately, there has not been enough research on the affect of differences in variety on coir, charcoal, water and milk. An example in the broadest terms is the preference for bristle coir from Sri lanka as longer stronger fibres.
Global production of coconuts is estimated by us as being around 70 billion nuts per annum,
equivalent to roughly:
70 million tons of nuts ($ 20-1,200 per ton, depending on country),
of which, 23 million tons of husks ($ 40 per ton, value varies by cost of collection)
7 million tons of coir, ($250 per ton average for decorticated)
14 million tons of peat ($150-300 per ton average)
However, VCA estimates coconut product production is:
4 million tons of coconut oil,
200,000 tons of milk,
360,000 tons of coconut water,
370,000 tons of desiccated,
1,200,000 tons of coir,
500,000 tons of peat
40,000 tons of mulch,
600,000 tons of charcoal
20,000 tons of virgin oil
are probably being processed with more produced and consumed without entering the commercial chain as well as a large consumption of fresh coconuts, shells used as fuel and husks as mulch.
The chart below gives production of coconuts in 2012 in leading producing countries in millions of coconuts.
In India there is a very healthy .local market for fresh coconuts and area planted and production have continued to climb for many years. Moreover, coconuts grow in politically sensitive states and no Indian Government would dream of not protecting and encouraging fresh and oil consumption. Prices for coconut oil have thus long been at a premium over world market prices. The state with the largest production Kerela actually means the land of the coconut. In India, coconuts hold a sacred value for Hinduism and no contract, festive occassion or celebration is complete with cracking a coconut. Over 200 million coconuts every year are donated to temples as offerings and this makes Indian temples a major producer of copra and oil.
Indonesia, of course, has a big advantage in areas planted to coconuts and has also a healthy local demand. No one really knows how many coconuts there are in Indonesia. It is quite impossible to estimate them with any degree of certainty. Official figures are only indicative to a very general level. Naturally, coconuts are very important to local consumption with Klentic oil being the village level expression of oil from fresh coconuts. The country also produces a great deal of copra based oil. Interestingly, Pulau Sambu are also the leading producer of coconut milk in the world processing as they do more than 60 million coconuts per annum in Riau.
In Philippines, returns are low for traditional products and there has been a slow decline in areas to other crops. It used to be said that one-third of the population depended to some degree on earnings from coconuts but this is not even claimed anymore. The traditional largest producer has lost faith in coconuts. Despite decades of promises from the Government that they will intervene to help the industry and the Philippine Coconut Authority, in reality very little positive has been done and under President Marcos, the copra levy robbed the farmers of over a billion dollars, back in the days when a billion dollars was a large sum of money to rob, that ended up buying San Miguel through curious banking arrangements and some of that money is now recovered and supposed to be used to help the industry. However, there is now a revolution taking place in that processing of high value products such as milk and water is growing rapidly, mainly to supply Brazil.
This global revolution has already resulted in a shortfall of copra nuts amounting to 500 million nuts per annum and the figure is headed towards one billion. Philippines tries to make up the shortfall by buying copra at above local prices in order to keep prices to their own farmers low.
The farm gate value of the global production of coconuts
is at present around $ 10 billion.
The value of resulting coconut products is probably around
an average of $ 40 billion at factory gate.
We have toured many of the main producing areas extensively, and although not agronomists, have had the privelege of getting to know some of the greatest coconut agronomists including Hugh Harries, Francoise Rognon and P. K. Thampan. Similarly, we have worked with leading process specialists, including the three great R's: Robert Haggenmaeir (formerly Texas A & M and Red V Coconuts in Philippines), Al Hansvold (Bradley Fairchild) and Jarl Haddenmark (formerly Alfa Laval). Our own speciality is that we know the conditions, the processes and the market. This combination gives us our strength, particularly as we are concerned with all the coconut products.
There are three processing options:
Copra, dried coconut meat, was the most convenient form in which coconuts could be transported from the Pacific and other far away places to Europe for coconut oil to be extracted. An early oil to be developed for industrial puposes, coconut oil started life being very important. The oil was the basis for cooking but also for toiletry. It was a system required by the colonial system. A way of getting the raw material for processing. Copra was a dirty cargo that could be carried as dry bulk cargo but without going rancid.
[Click the Value Chain Analysis page to see the copra chain for the Solomon Islands]
The traditional approach is to dry coconut meat to below 8% moisture content, then to crush it to expel oil and leave a cake residue used as animal feed mix, with very little use of husks and only non monetary use of shells. That yields an income per nut of 9-11 US cents per processed coconut. The process was developed in colonial times because as copra, the meat could be carried to Europe and the USA to be crushed for oil. The processed value of the traditional approach, with coir and charcoal implies a value of $450 per ha but farmers actually only sell nuts for copra at around 3-4 cents per nut or $125 per ha.
With copra, it is important to remember than an average farmer does not produce copra. He/she either sell the nut, with or without husk, or cut the nut into fingers which are then partially dried. The return the farmer gets is related to which of these patterns is followed but also to other factors such as proximity to market. The fingers or cut nuts are then dried by a copra producer, normally one of the larger farmers in the neighbourhood but can easily be a trader instead. the copra producer often hires labour, dries to market standards, bags and then either sells to a trader or agent or transports to an oil mill or exporter. The farm gate price for a de-husked nut averages at US 2 - 5 cents per nut. People on remote islands get much less.Farmers get paid very low prices for their nuts or partially dried copra, in the days when copra exports used to be allowed from the Philippines, it was less than 25% of FOB value.
In the 1970s the Philippines moved from exporting copra to expelling oil and trading in the latter. This required developing a substantial oil crushing capacity and a rationalisation of the entire industry. Very few major producing countries today export copra with the exception of the Pacific.When President Marcos backed the change, it caused a lot of political tensions and was seen as a major development but in the event, what is at stake is only the crushing margin which is not only tight but also depends on the efficiency of the crushing operation. It did represent some potential value added and that was gained by the development.
A great deal of heat is applied in the traditional drying and crushing process with a consequent imparting of a burnt caramelised flavour and denaturing. Crude coconut oil is often refined and deodrised. Over the years, former copra exporters like Philippines became oil exporters and this was considered a major step forward, particularly when the coconut Industry in the country rationalised production, i.e. controlled supply, working on the hypothesis that coconut oil usually enjoyed a premium over soya and this premium would be larger if they controlled supply. They were wrong. But moved on to some fatty acid extraction from the oil and using money from coconut farmers to acquire San Miguel beer.
Coconuts are so identified with copra that they are often referred to as copra nuts and production is estimated from copra records. The identification with copra also gives coconuts a low value, as a nut to be compared with cotton seeds and other such oil seeds. A dirty cargo when being shipped. Unfortunately, this low value has had far reaching affects with low self esteem for those who produce coconuts and lack of investment. All this is now changing to the contrary.
Another traditional approach is to harvest immature coconuts when only 10 months old and to desiccate. This gave a higher value than for copra but with higher inputs. Still a matter of drying copra leaving a burnt caramelised offtaste and fragrance. The resulting product, however is essential in bakery and ice cream. Sri lanka and Philippines tried to increase profits through rationalisation on a global scale and controlling supply but this failled while succeeding in antagonising major customers.
Coconut shells have always been used for making charcoal or for burning as fuel. As such, in some regions they were and still are an important fuel. But they did not add much to the processed value of nuts. Those who bought the charcoal at commodity prices and processed into activated carbon made much more. This step too is now largely transferred to coconut producing countries although the profits have moved downstream to products based on activated carbon.
The traditional approach in India and Sri Lanka also led to use of husks for coir extraction and India had 500,000 workers in the industry. Using the by-products for matting and pads could increase the processed value from coconuts to over 12 cents per nut. The reason it took place in India and Sri Lanka first is that wages were low, labour ample and there was a tradition to extract fibre. Production has and is spreading to other countries. Growthis made more attractive with the growing market for coir dust, sold as coir peat, which effectively trebles primary processing margins.
2 Wet or Aqueous Process
Coconut producers always felt there must be a higher value use for coconuts and Aqueous processing represented a way to it. Wet processing takes fresh coconut meat, dried through immersion heating or communition, as a starting point, the result is a superior dried copra with immersion heating or milk through communition and then there are a series of product options income, with husks and shells used as well leading to an expected of 106 US cents per nut. Many people worked for over a century to perfect processes but the leading promoter is Alfa Laval although there were many noble attempts much earlier.
Skimmed milk Low Fat Desiccated
--------------------------- Virgin Oil
Husks----------------- Coir-----------------Rubberised coir-------------------------Upholstery
The wet process was long experimented on in the Philippines but received serious resources only when the Philippine Coconut Authority asked the United States AID to develop extraction of soluble proteins from coconuts. The work took place at Texas A & M University and led to the establishment of the Protein Research Laboratory. Following lobbying in the United States, the protein research lab turned to soy as the source and the coconut work was transferred to San Carlos in the Philippines where it languished due to lack of investment.
Although the wet process was developed to access soluble proteins, no one is doing that today as soya protein has become entrenched in that particular market. There is also no major producer of virgin coconut oil, instead they stop at milk or cream and skimmed milk or water. The actual process is quite simple and consists of communiting the fresh coconut meat, heating and crushing to express milk and then separating the milk into cream and skimmed milk by means of a centrifuge. The cream then provides the basis for oil and low fat desiccated.
Vinay Chand Associates (VCA) has specialised in integrated coconut processing and marketing. As such, VCA pushes against the limits to see how much more can be earned for coconut products. We have a variation on the wet process that we favour, in process technology for kernels and product development and market knowledge that allows us to lift expected income to above 243 cents per nut, which even assuming a higher nut price and operating costs makes coconuts a valuable commodity. We actually believe that a higher price should be paid to farmers for really fresh coconuts so that they participate in the fruits of the advance and so that the future availability of coconuts is assured.
Coconuts----------------Kernels------------------Ice Cream Mix Milk (proprietary grade)
Husks---------------------Coir-----------------------Rubberised Coir Mattresses
Shells---------------------Charcoal --------------Activated carbon
The value of the products using the wet or VCA variation process lies in marketing and coconut product producers in the past have never been that good at marketing. Very little is known about markets and requirements but Vinay Chand Associates have explored this area to great depth. Marketing is the key component of higher processed values for coconuts and there are many other ways than are being used at present to raise coconut product values even further. Being entirely market driven, we have explored ways and means of accessing some of that downstream value chain returns.
In the Pacific, VCA are advocating a minimum farm gate price of US$ 0.26 per nut as a way of giving farmers what would be better than fair trade returns. This would be possible only by producing higher value products and establishing better distribution and marketing systems.
US cents per coconut
The main constituents of a coconut, namely, meat, water, shell and husk are seldom all used and nearly always not at the same place.. We do not know of any integrated plant. Over 90% of husks are wasted and in the case of
shells it is 80% that are wasted. Only in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand is the use of husks at a significant level. Roughly half of all coconuts produced are used for their meat being dried and expulsion of coconut oil. The second most important form of consumption is as fresh coconuts.
Fresh consumption is probably the most nutritional form in which coconuts can be consumed and is also the highest in value terms. Those who live under coconut palms can never go hungry. Fresh consumption accounts for an estimated 30% of total coconut consumption. In contrast copra derived oil is a relatively crude low value product that is still adhered to out of habit acquired from the colonial period. Coconut prices vary by freshness with those intended for drinking, jelly and for desiccated having to be harvested from trees and selling for higher prices than fully mature coconuts that are often allowed to fall before harvest. There is a significant change in taste and flavour as the nut matures. As that happens coconut water gives way to jelly, then to a soft meat with some free water and ends up as firm meat with free water. There is a change in sweetness as the process pogresses. A number of sweetmeats are produced from fresh coconut meat. In India there is a veritable industry built on it and in Vietnam it is very high value. This may account for a small volume but is of high value.
Fresh coconuts are thus viewed as an essential sometimes indispensable resource in coconut growing countries and by coconut farmers and their communities. There are a large range of forms in which they are consumed together with by-products and other products deriving from coconut palms. The latter also provide shade for other valuable crops that can be grown under the coconuts.
China has become the world's largest importer of fresh coconuts as well as for coir. Production from Hainan is clearly not enough for their needs and over 150 million fresh coconuts are being imported together with 170,000 tons of coir fibre. Demand from China has had a major impact on the region with Vietnam earning healthy prices and taking advantage of a land and sea routes to main consuming centres in China. Thailand too is a major exporter to the country.
There are regional preferences in consumption with Thailand having the largest proportion of coconuts that are used as drinking nuts. Consumers in most coconut producing countries are proud of their coconut drinking varieties and there are many claims as to which is best. Farmers in many coconut producing countries often plant varieties that are ideal for drinking and revenue from such palms is at a premium. For long, only those living under the coconuts could partake of this healthy drink. Those living elesewhere had to be satisfied with poor substitutes in the way of canned water until aseptic processing and packaging offered a great improvement in the preservationof flavour and fragrance.
In Brazil Zico and Coco Vita have launched aseptically packaged pure green coconut water drinks. They sell at up to US$ 4 each (300 ml) and the two companies have not only been bought by coca Cola and Pepsi Cola but are in the process of rapidly gearing up production. The two had claimed unique processes but in reality use Tetra Pak packaging.
There are excellent coconuts in all coconut producing countries that can and are being used as drinking nuts. The idea that only some nuts can be used is an illusion. Much more important is the age at which the coconuts are harvested, process and packaging.
In Jamaica and Malaysia, consumers like jelly nuts which inavariably command high prices because judgement is required as to when a coconut is ready.Unfortunately, there is no process capable of preserving the fine flavour of jelly coconut although some claim they can do it. Processes are being used that result in a far lower quality than when from fresh coconuts, but at least they give the illusion through texture, appearance and a slight flavour.
In India, over 200 million per annum are offered to temples. This makes the temples a large copra producer.
The highest prices Vinay Chand has found for fresh coconuts in coconut producing countries were in Guyana where there is a shortage and the Sultanate of Oman.
Vinay Chand Associates has worked on coconuts in: Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Mexico, Venezuela, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ghana and Comoros Islands. The most recent work has been in the pacific, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.
Vinay Chand has published on high value use of coir in a CFC Technical Paper, articles in Cococommunity, a publication of the Asian Pacific Coconut Community and in Malayalam Manoroma in Kerela. He has spoken on coconuts on TV in Kerela and in Davao. Vinay has looked at markets for high value consumption and technologies that can supply these products.
Vinay discussing freight costs
VIRGIN COCONUT OIL
Virgin coconut oil is simply coconut oil that has not gone through the intermediary phase of copra but instead is extracted directly from fresh coconut meat. It has appealed so far to health conscious niche markets which unfortunately does not result in a substantial premium at the production end. In turn, this tends to encorage compromise solutions to extraction of virgin oil. The quality of virgin oil depends almost entirely on the extraction technology used.
There is great and increasing ambiguity as to what is virgin coconut oil. All qualities are being produced and marketed as virgin oil but sometimes they are simply a good quality version of copra oil. Unless there is greater care, we will simply erode the market for virgin oil and yet,there is no one to supervise what the oil is called. Consumers have to become more careful.
There appear to be two broad categories of approach depending on whether heat is applied or is not. Heat may be applied before pressure as in the DME process, after separation to speed up separation from cream or boiling the meat to skim off the oil. The cold alternative is to allow settling and/or use of centrifuges. The differences in quality may be marginal in chemical composition and have not been measured to any great degree as yet and differences in flavour and fragrance and cell structures will have to be studied further. Virgin oil is cleaner than copra based oil and has a more natural aroma and flavour.
Virgin oil, of a crude quality, has always been produced on a cottage or village basis in coconut producing countries. In Indonesia it is known as Klentik Oil. There is a more advanced way of doing it that is widely being used now known as immersion drying. Since frying is involved at high temperatures, there is a consequent change in quality of the resulting oil.
A still more technically advanced technology is through coconut milk in the Aqueous process, the most prominent promoter of which has been Alfa Laval. the quality of the resulting oils from the different technologies is not often compared and is not as yet discriminated by the market. There have been very few, if any, efforts by coconut producing countries to develop or promote the market.
We do not know of any bulk producers of coconut virgin oil at present although some of the larger milk plants are capable of producing excellent virgin coconut oil in bulk. They have not because they are unsure of the market and in any case milk is as profitable and there is a market for coconut milk. Virgin Coconut Oil has not become a major commodity but rather remains a niche health food product. The reasons for this lack of success are many, probably weakness in marketing and market information is the most important but also the lack of differentiation between qualities from the different techniques is important. In any case, the only driver of the process is the niche market for healthier foods which has motivated small scaled relatively crude profuction of a relatively crude product. Those who claim to value virgin oil and help arrange small scale production on isolated islands are not doing a favour to the poor farmers since this small scaled production at low values discourages a significant breakthrough. We are sorry to say this but sincerely believe what we have said.
Much more can be done to develop production and consumption of virgin oil but there is nothing underway that offers to do that. Relying on a verbal association with olive oil and a trend that favours natural products is not enough. After all, traditional copra oil is equally organic compared to the virgin oil being offered. Those promoting sales in health food outlets make some marginal headway by using the argument. There has been no consideration of using the advantages of characteristics of a virgin oil beyond edible oils and there are applications that could be developed for a high quality product.
There are two aspects to the trade in virgin oil that need to be noted. One is that a relatively minor quantity is produced, we estimate to be below 5,000 tons. The second is that FOB prices are normally around $4,000 per ton while retail prices can be $20,000 per ton. The small size of the market means that we simply do not know at what volume prices will fall drastically. In the next five years, we believe production will tripple. This should not collapse the price. The second aspect troubles producers. Naturally, there are expenses but the difference between factory gate and retail is too large to be excused by such considerations.
Most of the producers are far too small to investigate markets let alone to make their own marketing arrangements. A few do it within the traditional family links but most do not. We are going to help producers get a better price.
COCONUT MILK AND PRODUCTS
The technology to produce coconut milk on a commercial scale was developed as part of the route to soluble coconut proteins at the Texas A & M University at the request of the Philippine Coconut Authority. The protein research lab that resulted from this work was taken over for soya in the USA and the development work on coconuts was transferred to San Carlos in the Philippines where it has staggered on. It has never truly recovered from that blow. In contrast soya milk and protein went on to conquer the market. The failure is that of vision and marketing skills but the first blow was an underhand one. But the failure of the coconut producing countries to take up the gauntlet and move forwards is a product of their own bacward thinking and that of donors to not help them to do this a commercial crime.
Coconut milk is produced through reduction of the meat into an emulsion. Many have worked on techniques to do so but Alfa Laval provide an off the shelf plant. The resulting milk is mostly used for cooking purposes, sometimes with the cream being separated from the skimmed milk and for the two products to be sold separately. Demand has grown a great deal, particularly with the growing popularity of Thai cuisine. Thus far, there have been no market development efforts to take sales beyond the sizeable but limited ethnic cooking demand. Not much more than 1% of all the coconuts are being used for milk extraction.
There are three leading quality producers amongst a handful producing high quality, one in Malaysia, S & P, and one in Riau, Indonesia, Palau Sambu Group. All have Tetra Pak plants for packaging. Then there is Nestle who were buying from Sri Lanka as spray dried milk and now have diversified their sources and Red V Coconuts who had pioneered spray dried milk. There are others in China, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Samoa, Fiji and others. When milk is packed in Tetra Paks it commands a far higher value than if tinned. The difference in quality between the two is marked. The pack being used in China falls somewhere in the middle of the two. There are other alternatives but have not been explored.
There are, in fact, potentially higher value end-uses for the coconut milk family but markets are ill explored and the few producers can sell what they produce quite easily and have no reason to search for new markets. We have explored markets in Australazia, Europe and USA for different clients but are frustrated by the lack of initiative on the part of the coconut industry and their representatives. Coconut milk retails at around $4 per 250ml carton.
Sambu Group, Riau
There is a vast range of food products that can be processed from coconut milk. The www.nourishgourmet.com web site refers to kefir and home extracted milk, both of which are excellent products. In Fiji there was formerly a producer of soft coconut cheese. In the philippines there are a large number of food products, including Nata de Coco. In India there is Coconut Burfi, much like the candy on sale in Vietnam..
TENDER GREEN COCONUT WATER
There is no natural drink in the world to compare with tender green coconut water. No praise of its health benefits, taste r flavour can do it justice. Harvested from the tree at around 7.5 months old and consumed immediately is an experience to savour. Unfortunately, the qualities cannot be preserved as anyone who has tasted tender coconut water will agree. Changes take place in hours, let alone days or weeks. To think otherwise, in my eyes is a delusion.
But, given that we cannot all be in that privileged situation, if you keep a green coconut in a fridge, I have for a week, it still tastes great. Maybe I have stretched it to 10 days and it could be a shade longer if the temperature is low enough. The other day I bought a green coconut in Portobello Market in London imported from Colombia. It had all the trappings of a green coconut, with a little umbrella and a straw but I did not bother to finish it. True, it was sold at £4 under the description of a jelly nut but the amount of jelly was so pathetic, if you sold it in Kingston, you would have been in trouble.
Brazil started the craze for packaged tender coconut water. Let us start by saying that it is a very pale shadow of the real thing but then maybe all processed foods are. They quickly ran out of cheap tender water and then a global game started of pretending mature coconut water could be sweetened to taste like tender water. This is not allowed by law in many countries now so mature water is described as pure coconut water, which it is. very rarely as you will find out if you look at the ingredients.
Moreover, Vietnam has a variety that stays liquid for 12 months so they sell that as green coconut water. Good luck to them but I would never buy it again. No matter how you bend it, tender green coconut water is a unique product and we could have plenty of it even processed if only the brands were willing to pay an appropriate price for it. After all the coconuts have to harvested from the tree and there is not much use for the shells or the husks. It is a matter of price. there are potentially ample supplies of tender coconut water, at a reasonable price.
MATURE COCONUT WATER
Coconut water was not formerly developed as a major product mainly because there was no easy way to preserve flavour and Tetra pak was too expensive a way of packaging it. However, there are now a number of operations with a lead from Brazil using Tetra packaging. The two leading brands are below:
Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola have purchased the two above brands, which is just one indication of the promise that tender coconut water, with a number of flavours or by itself holds. At $3.75 per 17 oz carton or 500 ml, it is clearly a premium product.There is no doubt however that coconut water is a very nutritious product and far far better for you than drinking the main beverages of the two multinationals now in the market. There will be others who join them.
There are already reports that producers in Philippines, India and Indonesia amongst others are going to produce the product. The first step was and is to start harvesting mature coconut water previously wasted during production of desiccated coconut. A new coconut water plant is being built in the Philippines already. Some will produce using bottling for the local market while others are looking at the export potential for their inspiration. A lot of people are considering producing coconut water due to the high margins and the publicity by existing sellers. However, the current trend is to mix mature and tender water and this in turn places emphasis on using the mature coconut water that desiccated and milk plants were previously throwing away as waste. Very few people produce packaged tender coconut water outside Brazil and even in Brazil, there may be some mixing taking place. Thailand does sell canned tender water but canned products are no match for the aseptic packed ones.
There have already been legal disputes on labelling. Tender coconut water is not mature coconut water. The two products are very different and it does no good to confuse the issue as retailers are currently doing.
Very few outlets sell the products so far but what they have done is to increase interest in production of coconut water. It is sometimes difficult to separate hype from reality.
There are also many claims of new technologies but few of these or rather none in the last three decades have proven to have substance. The fact is that there is no perfect way of preserving the flavour, as is teh case for nearly all fruit juices although to different degrees. Aseptic processing and packaging are the nearest thing to fresh, again, as in the case of fruit juices. Canning and bottling require additional steps to preserve and that leads to further deterioration in quality. No one has found a way around this. If anyone did, it would have a massive application in juices. There has been no advance on aseptic processing and packaging. Only illusions. We badly need a research budget to look for a way forward because tender coconut water is more sensitive than nearly all fruit juices.
But consumers are prepared often to pay good prices for lesser quality. They buy bottled in Australia and canned in Japan. They even buy artificial flavoured versions. Money is to be made in producing these sub-standard products. In addition there is considerable adulteration through mixing mature coconut weater with tender coconut water. Consumers are not being kept adequately informed of what they are buying.
The husk of the coconut is a valuable material. For centuries it has been found to have value in coconut producing countries. Today, it can be made into products that are just as or even more valuable than coconut kernels. Only about 12% of all husks are used and so there are a vast majority that are either not used or used in a residual capacity. At the very least, husks can be burnt as biomass to generate electricity and heat and this heat can be used to dry copra and/or purify water or other applications. This solution makes a lot of sense in the case of remote places such as the islands in the Pacific. Even burning husks is capable of doubling farmer incomes by creating value around husks. In remote places, electricity is often not available or very expensive if available. Returns on burning are justified by selling electricity to the local village.
Another option for using the entire husk is to shred or cube it for mulch. It was always well known that husks were good for orchid production and shredded or cubed husks enjoy growing demand. Japan imported small quantities in the late 1970s from the Philippines in very tidy cubes. Then Indonesia started to export shredded husks and now India too is offering neat cubes and shredded for export. Again, husks sold for mulch are given a commercial value that matches or can and should match prices paid for coconuts.
The third alternative is, of course, to produce fibre and peat. Returns depend very much on how far you go down the value chain. Peat is far more lucrative if you are packaging the final retail package and coir becomes the most profitable single coconut product as rubberised coir.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------burn as biomass
Roughly one-third the weight of a coconut is made up of husks. Husks from roughly 10 billion coconuts are used to extract coir fibre. There are major differences in the quality of husks depending on variety and the age of growth of a coconut. Some varieties yield longer fibres than others. Basically, those from immature husks, say from coconuts used for desiccated production, that are known as green husks while those from fully mature coconuts are brown husks.
Green husks are retted for months in brackish water after which a fibre known as 'white fibre' is extracted by hand beating with tamarind sticks and spun and woven as mats and matting, almost exclusively in India. The process is labour intensive, a bit unkind to the environment, and requires investment, which has persuaded producers to shorten the steps leading to a serious loss in quality.
Green Husks------------retting--------------manual extraction-------white fibre-------------bleaching and colouring----------------spinning-----------------weaving
Brown husks do not have to be retted, can be soaked or processed dry and the resulting fibre is known as 'brown fibre' which is used for rubberised coir, geotextiles, car seats, brushes and pads. Brown fibre comes as either a separated mattress and bristle fibres or as a mixed fibre. If seperated, bristle fibre can be spun and then weaved or used for brushes while mattress fibre mostly ends up as upholstery. Mixed fibre can be wtisted and then untwisted and rubberised. The leading producers of the latter are India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, although there is minor production in many other countries.
Brown Husks car seats
($250-300/ton) ($360 per ton) ($3,000 /ton) ($8,000/ton+)
Over 85% of husks, or over 60 million tons are wasted or used for some residual purpose. In the 1980s there was an experimental plant for heat bonding of husks for timber by Zytek technologies, using German technology and machinery, just outside Manila led by a MIT post graduate by the name of Fin Rosa. This experiment has now been repeated with Common Fund for Commodities finance, is likely to go to the next stage aleady reached by Zytek 25 years ago, but is likely to come up with the obstacle that the previous full scale plant faced, namely, there is no established market demand for the resulting product. We do not expect the new work to lead to an advance, we opposed it when the request was being processed and consider the entire exercise to have been a waste of money.
The two most promising developments possible would appear to be greater use of coir and use of husks and shells for gassers as bio-fuel. Care must be taken to follow either option on coral islands since the biomass is very important to their survival.
Roughly 15% of a coconut is made up of a hard shell, one of the hardest woods, and when transformed into charcoal, it is one-third the weight of the shells used.. Burnt under conditions of controlled air supply, the shell becomes a charcoal, indeed an ideal one for barbecue purposes. Or it is used as raw material for production of activated carbon. In coconut producing countries shells are a valuable source of cooking fuel. In other countries the charcoal sells for premium prices.
Bulk use of coconut shell charcoal is mainly confined to activated carbon. Although coconut shell activated carbon is considered one of the finest carbons, prices have not been attractive due to a significant increase in production. Charcoal used to be and is still exported for activation but the process is also being undertaken in coconut producing countries like Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The real profit margins that used to accrue to the few who knew how to produce activated carbon have by now moved downstream to the filters that use the carbon. In the 1980s coconut shell activated carbon used to be traded at around $3,000 per ton compared to other carbons which were typically traded at around $1,000 per ton. This premium, together with increased access to processing technology led to a great deal of interest in activated carbon from coconut shells and a number of countries responded to the demand.
Vinay Chand Associates used to include activated carbon in their mix of coconut products being promoted buit have since tended to opt for coconut shell barbecue charcoal, when packaged and marketed properly the latter can be far more profitable that charcoal for activation or activated carbon.
Coconut shell charcoal thus has an assured bulk price and a niche market high value. However, where activated carbon is produced, as it is in Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, it is a high value export product. Moreover, the market for activated carbon is growing at an accelerating rate due to increased demand for filtration devices that need it.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL
Frederick FN Noronha sent the following: