2008-05-06 09:25:44 UTC
PANJIM, Goa, May 6: With coconut prices failing to keep up with
inflationary trends, and competition growing, planters of this
versatile nut are looking for alternative ways to enhance their
incomes. Options are growing too.
Some successful coconut ventures include coconut water-based health
drinks, and vinegar, and miscellaneous food articles available in
There is a growing demand for nata de coconut in Japan and Malaysia,
and technology for making it is available. Nata de coco is a chewy,
translucent, traditional Philippine dessert which is "coconut
gel-product from coconut water by bacterial fermentation-prepared."
There is also a large demand globally for kernel and sap based coconut
products, coconut liquid milk, coco milk powder, and desiccated
'Solution Exchange for the Food and Nutrition Security Community', a
United Nations initiative to share information within India, recently
raised this issue and got some useful hints about the versatile plant.
Coconut supplies food, drink and shelter to humans, along with raw
material to a number of industries. A coconut palm has 12 different
crops of nuts at any point of time, from the opening flower to the
ripe nut. Each part is a source of food, fiber, medicine or for
New ideas are coming up for tender coconut water sales too.
Tender green coconut can be trimmed (removing a considerable portion
of the husk) and shaped such that it can be attractively marketed by
shrink-wrapping to prevent desiccation.
Thailand has aptly used this method. In India, several companies are
innovatively marketing coconut water on green carts in Hyderabad, as
'Tender Fresh' in Bangalore and 'Coconectar' in Kerala.
Other commercial value additions for coconut, which are being
increasingly noted, are canned sweet toddy, one of the major coconut
products produced and marketed in Sri Lanka; coconut sugar (Indonesia
and Thailand are leadders) and coconut oil.
Coconut oil, besides being edible, is used in soaps, toiletry
articles, plasticizers, safety glasses, rubber substitutes, paints,
synthetic detergents, etc. Glycerin, derived from coconut oil, is also
in demand for medicines, personal care products, food and beverages,
and animal feeds.
Virgin coconut (VC) oil is now emerging as the most valuable coconut
product, with the Philippines as the major exporter. The export price
ranges from $US8.00 to $12.00 per liter of cold processed oil.
Virgin coconut oil is derived from fresh coconuts (rather than dried,
as in copra). It is produced by either quick drying of fresh coconut
meat, wet milling (oil is extracted from fresh coconut without
drying), or by adjustment of the water content, then the pressing of
the coconut flesh results in the direct extraction of free-flowing
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has
perfected the microfiltration process for cold sterilization of
coconut water and has made information on the process freely available
for commercial application.
In India, the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) has
supported a progressive farmer in perfecting the technology for
climbing the coconut tree, making the harvesting process safe and
Another system developed is a coconut dehusking mechanism that reduces
drudgery but does not displace labour.
CPCRI has also standardized a virgin coconut oil process by developing
the necessary equipment suitable for micro enterprise and has worked
on snowball tender coconut.
Besides, CPCRI has developed a range of copra dryers, which use
agricultural waste as fuel. Kerala Agro Industries Corporation has
applied these technologies.
Says farmer-journalist Shree Padre, who edits the journal Adike
Patrike (Farmer's Own Media), "In the recent past, we have carried
stories of tender coconut minimal processing, virgin coconut oil,
coconut broomstick home industry and more."
Padre argues that the "need of the hour" is to help farmers build
value-added products from their crops, which otherwise mostly earn
only depressed prices.
Incidentally, among the different oils and fats, coconut oil has the
maximum digestibility coefficient and is more rapidly digested and
absorbed in the human system than any other fat.
Coconut oil is preferred for medicinal foods, especially for disorders
affecting digestion, absorption and transport of fats, and infant
feeding formulae for the treatment of malnutrition.
Suggestions coming up include providing tender coconuts to
schoolchildren under the Mid-Day Meal scheme, which would greatly
increase the demand.
P. K. Thampan of the Kochi-based Peekay Tree Crops Development
Foundation said, in the discussion put out online recently: "Coconut
water-based vinegar is being produced on a commercial scale in a few
units in Kerala and the product is enjoying good consumer acceptance
both within and outside the State."
Of the total production of coconuts, about 5% is consumed in the
tender form for drinking purposes. The rest is utilised as mature nuts
for household and religious purposes and for the production of edible
copra, milling copra and desiccated coconut.
Coconut has traditionally given India coconut oil -- used for edible
pruposes, toiletry and industrial use. Coconut is also used for
rafters for roofs, to make broomsticks and handicrafts.
Hyderabad-based D.S.K. Rao added: "I always felt that coconut farming
has a greater potential than what is being currently exploited. I was
pleasantly surprised to see in Hyderabad airport a green cart selling
tender coconuts." (ENDS)