Potential for growth in coconut industry


IT is time Papua New Guinea diversifies the coconut industry and develops other byproducts.
Concerns have already been raised by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock that the copra sector has not been doing well and failing to make a big enough contribution to the economy.
Why are we worrying about money from copra only? Why not look at expanding and adding value to coconut by developing other byproducts?
We can have virgin coconut oil, coconut fibre and coconut lumber industries.
Another potential export are coconut shells.
Papua New Guinea is listed as among the top 10 coconut-producing country in the world along with Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil, Sir Lanka, Mexico, Thailand and Malaysia.
Statistics show that in 2011 we produced over 1.2 million tonnes of copra.
The Kokonas Indastri Koporesen (KIK) office should expand more into products like virgin coconut oil, coconut fibre, coconut shells and coconut charcoal, which has a variety of uses.
For Papua New Guinea, we possibly may have an oversupply of coconut trees and coconuts in general, but our challenge is to produce the volume that will be required to meet demands from world markets.
There should also be a replanting programme with copra producers asked to start replanting now rather than later.
To leverage and take advantage of these, the KIK needs to aggressively put in place an 18 to 24-month plan, from drafting the strategies to exploring and securing markets.
Furthermore, we need to re-align and build capacity, and plan and strategise how to do it from the top down to the growers, buyers and exporters.
By diversifying we will create stability and be able to better weather the storms of fluctuating world prices, and consequently, maintain a steady flow of income for our growers.
Much of the work of diversification can be done by the growers themselves.
As they harvest the coconut meat and prepare it for drying, they prepare the shells and the fibre and therefore get three raw products from one nut.
We don’t need to go far to see how and where we can exploit our coconut shells.
Philippines, one of our neighbouring Asian countries, is currently the world’s number one coconut producer.
In 2011 we were ranked within the top 10 coconut-producing nation in the world with Philippines at the top. They have doubled their production of coconut shells for the charcoal industry from 25,000 tonnes to 45,000 tonnes.
Their exports of natural activated carbon from coconut shells for use in water filtering
industry increased from 23,000 tonnes to 38,000 tonnes in the same year.
These lessons, examples and attractive rates of what these countries are doing to boast and diversify their coconut industry certainly put Papua New Guinea not too far behind.
It’s time to muscle up, put all our efforts and thinking cap on to accelerate and take our coconut industry to the next level to diversify the industry and maintain a constant income for our growers and the nation in general.