Coconut replanting programme vital

Editorial

MANY people associate coconut with the tiresome task of copra making and forget that it is much more than that.
They do not realise the potential this nut and its tree has until someone actually sits down and breaks it down into smaller pieces.
And that responsibility falls with the KIK (Kokonas Indastri Koporesen) who over the years have done a tremendous job on raising awareness on the significance of the coconut industry.
The coconut industry is the fourth most significant agriculture cash crop in terms of its economic importance to PNG.
The coconut industry played a significant part in the colonial days and in the lead up to independence in terms of its contribution to the national economy in generating revenue and providing employment for a colony contemplating self-government and eventual independence.
As other cash crops grew in economic importance and the mineral sector boomed the coconut industry has been displaced in economic importance but has maintained its social importance as a “must use” ingredient in every PNG families’ food preparation and will remain so for many years to come.
According to the most recent national census figures, a total of 464,328 households (35 per cent of the total households in PNG or an estimated 2.6 million people) are engaged in coconut activities in PNG to either generate income and/or as food to supplement their livelihoods.
From this sum, 134,655 (29 per cent) were engaged in cash generating activities while 329,673 (71 per cent) were engaged for their own use. The latter reflects the importance of the coconut as a food item throughout the country, from the coastal regions where it is predominantly grown to the highlands of PNG where it has become an important food item in the daily diets.
On average, the industry contributes over K126.5 million per year to the PNG economy through the export revenue it generates.
Last month, KIK worked in Gulf and held a Coconut Downstream processing training (CDSP) for coconut farmers in the province.
This hands-on training is essential for coconut farmers in the region to understand the value of the coconut palms.
Many of our farmers including our people still associate coconut with copra sheds and drying etc.
It is time to focus on diversifying the coconut raw products in addition to copra and look at developing and expanding other potential products.
Apart from the PNG’s main coconut exports – copra, CNO (crude coconut oil) and copra meal – there are greater and untapped potential investment opportunities lie in value added products such as desiccated coconut, virgin coconut oil (VCO), coconut oil bio-fuel, coconut shell charcoal, coconut coir fibre and coconut timber.
According to KIK, over 15 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are involved in production of mainly VCO.
In 2015, only three MSMEs have exported just over 100 tons of VCO to overseas niches markets.
Many small and medium enterprises are taking this opportunities to explore and specialise in virgin coconut oil production and use this as a base for soap production, deodorant and even launch into coconut bio-fuels. In addition, another potential export commodity from coconut is the shells.
The industry in general has huge untapped potentials in terms of industry expansion and investment opportunities through product diversification.
For PNG, we possibly may have an oversupply of coconut trees and nuts in general.
But our challenge would be meeting the volume that would be required to sustain yearly demands from the world market.
While we harvest, coconut farmers must be encouraged start a replanting programme and encourage the coconut producers to starting planting new coconut trees today.

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