23 March 2012, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji –
SPC recently conducted a three-week survey in Cakaudrove Province, Fiji, to collect baseline data on current young coconut production capability and future prospects of the industry.
The survey was conducted by SPCs Land Resource Division under its European Union-funded Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) project that aims to strengthen the export capacity of Pacific countries in the primary industries of agriculture, forestry and aquaculture.
Copra and crude coconut oil have long been major exports of Pacific nations, undergoing frequent price fluctuations over the years. Currently, the price of these commodities is experiencing an upward trend, making the industry comparatively lucrative. According to Sanfred Smith, Export Production Officer with IACT, there are numerous products capable of being developed in existing coconut plantations.
‘Some of these included virgin coconut oil, soap and spa products, bottled and tetra-packed coconut water, coconut milk, coir, activated carbon, coconut peat, coconut sugar syrup and coconut sugar.
‘We are currently surveying the production of coconuts in Cakaudrove Province to make data available to potential investors who may be interested in enhancing Fiji’s coconut industry.’ Smith said.
He added that, as well as the inventorying exercise, work is under way to develop a simple harvesting tool, designed to enable easy and convenient harvesting, making climbing coconut trees unnecessary, and minimising the number of nuts falling to the ground and getting damaged.
‘The two engineering shops in Savusavu (Fiji) are engaged in developing concepts and prototypes that will be field-tested before being made available commercially. We hope the equipment will make the harvesting of coconuts less labour intensive than the conventional method of using spiked boots to climb the trees, the method currently being used by farmers and workers on research stations,’ explained Smith.
In the very recent past, coconut water markets have expanded tremendously worldwide, especially in USA and Australia. Major suppliers are South America and South East Asia. Pacific coconut water also has the potential to be marketed worldwide by a specific brand.
Smith added, ‘Inconsistent supply problems in Pacific countries have made it difficult to market this commodity overseas.’ Part of the problem lies in the lack of reliable statistics on fruiting palms and the lack of replanting.
‘Therefore, this inventory is important as it provides appropriate information to make reliable economic decisions on the supply of raw material.’
Also appreciative of the survey was Senior Agriculture Officer Cakaudrove, Esava Tuimoala, who said it would assist the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to update their records on the industry.
‘The DOA conducted a coconut survey through the farmer registration exercise in 2010 and 2011, but not all areas were covered. This survey is very important as there has been no cross-check of the bearing palms since the coconut replanting in 1997.
‘Monitoring was limited to pegging and planting, without any consideration of the performance of planted seedlings, especially their flowering, fruiting and the expected time of harvesting,’ Mr Tuimoala said.
He was pleased that this survey told them how many trees had actually survived and were bearing.
The SPC LRD coconut survey team comprised Tevita Kete, Osea Rasea, Sanfred Smith and Vinesh Prasad.
The four-year EU-IACT project is operational in the 15 Pacific members of ACP (the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States): Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The IACT project employs a wide range of agricultural export supply chain interventions, assisting commercial ventures and producer groups to become export-oriented, market-driven enterprises that will consistently supply overseas markets with competitive agriculture, forestry and aquaculture products.
A broader aim of the project is to improve these Pacific Island countries’ economic integration into the global economy through (a) strengthened national systems and institutional frameworks, (b) by developing trade capacity, and (c) increasing private sector competitiveness and international market access.
(For further information please contact Vinesh Prasad of SPCs Land Resources Division on 679-3370733 or LRD helpdesk
Photo captions –
Top: Agriculture staff interviewing a coconut farmer durring the survey.
Bottom: A copra drier - a common sight in Cakaudrove Province.