Organisation: Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) (http://www.apcc.org.sg)
Lack of awareness and actual skills on coconut post-harvest technologies have caused significant losses starting from the harvesting of the nuts, seasoning, drying and storage. While wastage and losses occur at different stages, the copra drying stage or the efficiency of the drying process at the farm level is the most critical stage as this affects subsequent losses in terms of product quality and reduced prices.
Harvesting of immature nuts causes the production of rubbery copra with high moisture content. If one allows the nuts to fall naturally, without harvesting or picking the nuts from the tree, the losses due to over-ripe nuts or germinated nuts are likely to occur. This could be as high as 10 percent of the total harvest especially with varieties that are early germinating. As the growing embryo utilises the stored food in the endosperm, the copra produced from germinated nuts would be thinner, lighter and with lower oil content. Losses due to pilferage and losses due to nuts that are hidden or covered by thick weeds or shrubs could also range from 5 to 10 percent of the total harvest if one does not regularly harvest his coconuts. To avoid these losses, it is recommended that the 45-day cycle of coconut harvesting be adopted. Seasoning of unripe nuts for 2-4 weeks should also be practised. Farm sanitation, e.g. weeding of thick shrubs and grasses in the spaces between coconut palms is highly recommended to prevent losses due to uncollected nuts.
As mentioned earlier, major post harvest losses are caused by improper drying of copra as a result of a lack of know-how on the proper drying technology and the lack of incentives to adopt the recommended copra dryers and the appropriate copra drying methods. Improperly dried copra or copra with high moisture content are prone to aflatoxin contamination.
Coconut researchers have also identified beetles, cockroach, a moth and an earwig to be associated with deteriorating copra and copra cake. Studies reveal that after one year of storage, copra weight loss due to pests be as high as 5 to 10 percent. Spraying of suitable insecticides may be done but this is not practised due to its prohibitive cost. Sanitary practices in the copra warehouse are the best recommended alternative to control these pests. Generally, these pests are considered a minor problem when compared to the attack of aflatoxin-related moulds or fungi.
Other factors cited to contribute to copra/copra cake deterioration are presence of wet or improperly dried copra, rubbery copra, delays in transport, long storage period, and unsanitary conditions in the farms and warehouse. Long storage time also favours the breeding of copra pests or the proliferation of aflatoxin related moulds.