Coconut trees are iconic of an island nation. Whether it’s in the Indian Ocean, Caribbean or the Pacific.
Coconut trees are synonymous with island nations. However, can these naturally growing trees translate into an economic benefit for island countries?
The Caribbean Week ofAgriculture 2016, session on the coconut industry delved into the possibilities and challenges of the ‘tree of life’ or tree of heaven as some may call it.
The facts and challenges
Dr. Wayne Marie of Jamaica, speaking of the challenges and activities in coconut production, mentioned that coconut is grown in over 90 countries in the world, covering an estimated land area of 12.28 million hectares.
With a potential of 70 billion nuts produced annually, the copra equivalent would be 12 million metric tons. However, 50% of these trees are senile and it would take 2 billion trees to replant and replace these.
In addition to this, the pest control factor needs to be seriously considered as pests like the red palm mites, armyworms, scales, white fly and coconut caterpillar eat the nut and damages the leaves.
To deal with this, most countries in the Caribbean take an integrated pest management approach.
Value adding a healthier alternative
On a global scale, the world production of coconut oil has reduced, however, consumption of virgin coconut oil is increasing. What more is there?
Though there are endless possibilities to working with coconuts, there are two interesting products that could contribute to health – coconut sugar and coconut water.
Coconut sugar apparently contains over 16 amino acids and four different B vitamins. It is a source of iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
It is a low glycaemic index food which means it would be good for people with diabetes.
The other product – coconut water is what the Caribbean focuses on. The coconut water business is projected to increase from $400 million USD to 2 billon USD in 2019.
Even Coca-Cola is looking into incorporating coconut water as people’s preferences move towards healthier drinks.
Selling the idea
Bearing in mind the potential that coconut has, it then all comes down to selling the idea.
In a time when organic and healthy is becoming a part of popular culture, there has never been a better time for coconuts.
As stated by Ena Harvey of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on coconuts and agritourism opportunities – coconut is the new sexy. It can be promoted by celebrities on billboards or gains visibility like the Pacific’s very own Tongan Olympic flag bearer. The market is out there.
Would it be worth it?
Just like the many other great ideas shared and dissected at conferences such as this, the burning question for the agricultural entrepreneur or agripreneur is – is this a good idea? Is this a worthy investment of time and resources?
As a social media reporter, my question is – considering how abundant coconut trees are in the Caribbean and Pacific, could this be one of the integrated approaches that taps into our natural resources, would help generate revenue for our economies and also supply a product that is healthy for both regions?
If so, would it be sustainable? Or what do we need to ensure that it does happen and is sustainable?
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