Organisation: Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) (http://www.apcc.org.sg)
Coconut is a subsistent crop which has provided the basic needs of a number of countries in the tropics for centuries. With the use of coconut oil in the production of soap and margarine in Europe in the 19th century, it was converted into a commercial crop. In the beginning of 20th century copra was the king among the oil seeds. In East Indies it was known as green gold.
However the period after the Second World War saw the substitution of vegetable oils and oleochemicals for coconut oil in international trade. The increase in the output of coconut was marginal. Price of coconut oil fluctuated heavily due to frequent short supply situations. A campaign against coconut oil alleging that it causes cardiovascular diseases aggravated the situation.
With the depressed price of coconut oil, coconut-producing countries have now moved from traditional products to the processing of value added products. Consequently, recent years have seen coconut oil being further processed to produce coco-chemicals. Export of coconut shell charcoal and activated carbon is on the increase though in small quantities; products like coconut cream, nata de coco, fibre dust, coconut powder, coconut water, geo-textiles are finding their way into the international market.
Another interesting feature that is becoming evident increasingly is the shift of the foreign markets from the traditional base to new areas. The newly industrialised countries in the East as Taiwan, South Korea are fast emerging as key importers of coconut products.
The medical and other evidence that came to light in the last few years in defence of coconut oil has cleared the misconception and misinformation about it.
Coconut products are also drawing attention as environmentally friendly. Research carried out has proved the adaptability of coconut oil as biodiesel. Coir is an excellent natural fibre which is strong, durable and biodegradable. Coir geotextiles are now becoming popular and is being used increasingly for erosion control particularly where land, bank reinforcements is required as well as for landscaping. Coconut shell which is a major by product of coconut industry finds important uses in daily life in place of non-biodegradable plastic containers. Activated carbon produced out of cocoshell charcoal is used for water purification, air purification and food purification. Fibre dust briquettes have found a place as a soil reconditioner and a suitable nutrient for landscaping and an ideal ready made potting mixture. Coco peat a hundred per cent renewable resource is now replacing bog peat, depletion of which environmentalist feel would destroy land forms, habitat of some unique fauna and flora in the U.K. Coconut water is a safe drink in the world unadulterated and untouched by human hands. Cocowood is a renewable resource and an answer to depleting forests reserves. Coco shell, husk, trunk, coir dust, fronds are energy sources.
Coconut is a smallholder crop and millions of rural people depend on it for survival. Its development particularly in post harvest activities could be the base for rural development in the coconut producing countries.