Coconut

INFOCOMM - COMMODITY PROFILE
COCONUT

COCONUT (Cocos nucifera) of family Arecaceae (palm family)

The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera  is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut refers to the entire palm, the seed or the fruit (not a biological fruit, but a drupe). There are two natural sub-groups, simply referred to as “Tall”   and “Dwarf” cultivars. Each producing region has its own selection e.g. ‘Indian Tall’ or ‘Jamaican Tall’. The tall cultivars are grown commercially because they live longer and are higher yielding than the dwarf cultivars. The coconut palm is widely distributed throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific region. It is not grown in Europe and Australia.

The coconut is a very versatile crop, which requires little care. It is often referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’ and has many uses – food, fibre, fuel, water and shelter. Agro-forestry uses include coastal stabilization and windbreaks. The palms also contribute to attractive landscapes and home beautification for both tourists and locals.

Every part of the coconut palm is used and many value added products are derived from it.  The kernel or flesh (Endosperm) is eaten fresh, green or dry and used for making value added products (copra, oil, cake, milk). The water is obtained from immature nuts and provides a nutritious, refreshing drink. The Husk (Mesocarp) which is fibrous and dry at maturity is used for fuel, mulch, coir and peat. The hard shell enclosing the seed (Endocarp) is used for making handicraft, charcoal, flour and activated charcoal. The leaves and trunk are used for making brooms, furnishing and for decorations. These products are in demand locally where they are produced and internationally.

The coconut industry is an important source of employment and additional income for most farmers in rural communities.

General culture 

a.    Soil Type

The coconut palm can adapt to a wide range of soil types. Although coarse sand is its natural habitat, best growth is obtained on deep soils with good physical structure and chemical properties. They can grow on light, medium and heavy soils, loams and clays which are well drained and can tolerate saline and infertile soils. Coconuts tolerate alkaline soils up to pH 8 and acid soils with pH 4.5. The ideal   pH range however is 5.5 – 7.

b.    Climate

A year- round warm and humid climate with mean temperatures ranging from 70° – 80°  F with relative humidity above 60% and evenly distribution of rainfall of 60-100 in (1,500 – 2,500 mm) per year, are ideal conditions for the growth of coconuts. Coconuts grow best at elevations from sea level to 490 ft (below 1,000ft.).   

c.    Tolerances

Coconuts tolerate drought and cold weather poorly. While they can withstand surface water logging for up to 2 weeks they do not tolerate water logging within 1m (3.3 ft) of the surface. They are able to withstand salt spray very well as can withstand cyclonic (hurricane) winds if roots are well anchored.

Crop cultivation (growth & nutrition)

Coconuts are typical single trunked palms which can reach up to 50- 100 ft. in height. They are believed to be largely cross pollinated and produce fruits (nuts / seeds) which are ovoid in shape, up to 15" long and 12" wide. Coconuts are seed propagated.  They are usually planted 25 ft apart in all directions and can be intercropped with staples like corn and even other tree crops. They mature within 2 – 7 years and the first fruit appears one year after flowering. One tree can yield on average 70-150 coconuts per year.  The palms remain productive for 50 – 100 years and yields are highest between 10- 20 years old.

The coconut palm requires very little by way of fertilizers. Commonly used fertilizers supply the four nutrients widely deficient in many coconut soils – Nitrogen, K2O, Chlorine and  Sulphur. Often salt (NaCL) at the rate of 1.5kg/tree/year or salt water is the only fertilizer used and it has proven to be very effective and economical. Only one application per year is necessary.

Crop Protection

Coconuts are affected by a wide range of pests and diseases. Most common pests are boring insects rhinoceros beetles (Oryctes rhinoceros and Scapanes australis), palm weevil, red palm mite (Raoiella indica), coconut leaf caterpillars, moth borers and ants (Azteca spp.). These affect the productivity of the palm and an integrated approach to pest management is usually effective in achieving some measure of control.

With respect to diseases, the palm is susceptible to a range of Phytoplasmal (fungal) diseases which cause a range of rots, spots and blights to leaves, root and buds,m while bacteria affect mainly the buds (Bacterial bud rot caused by Erwinia spp.).

However the most potentially damaging and lethal diseases are caused by viruses, viroids and mycoplasmas. Lethal yellowing disease is caused by mycoplasmas and this disease has spread throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Florida. Similar disease is found in West Africa, East Africa  and part of southern India. Cadang-cadang in the Philippines and tinangaja in Guam is a lethal disease caused by a viroid (CCCvd), while foliar decay in Vanuatu is caused by a virus.  These diseases can destroy an entire industry and therefore strict quarantine regulations govern the movement of planting material between countries. This has resulted in a level of containment of these diseases.

Harvesting & Post harvest

Coconuts fall from the tree when they are fully mature and are easily collected from the ground. Water nuts are harvested when the nuts are about seven (7) months old, just after they reach their full size but prior to the mesocarp drying.

Coconuts intended for copra or oil production are split open with a machete, discarding the milk and exposing the endosperm to the sun for drying. Drying in the sun takes 2-3 days or it can be done more quickly in kilns. Once dry, the copra is removed from the seeds with metal tools and further dried to reach water content of 5-6%. It is then packed into bags for transport and sale.

Products & uses

The products from the coconut palm can be categorized based on the part of the coconut used as follows:

Kernel

  • fresh green and dry nuts
  • copra (the dried ‘meat’ or endosperm, from which oil is expelled. In ripe nuts the endosperm contains about 50% water and 35- 40% oil.)
  • coconut oil – used for cooking and in the oleo-chemical industry for making margarine and soaps, it has potential for energy generation  as a bio fuel – either mixed with diesel or as a substitute for diesel
  • coconut water - a refreshing , nutritious drink
  • coconut juice with/ without pulp
  • coconut milk & cream – raw copra is grated and squeezed
  • coconut jam
  • coconut yogurt
  • vinegar
  • desiccated coconut - dried to 2-5% moisture and shredded for use in cakes & confectionary products.

Shells

  • charcoal
  • handicrafts
  • activated carbon

Husks

  • Fuel
  • mulch
  • coir and peat (processed coir, rubberized coir for mattresses, car seats)

Some of these products have not been fully commercialized but have the potential to increase the overall productivity of the industry.

Production

Coconuts:

a)      World

Coconuts are produced in 92 countries worldwide on about 11.8 million hectares (29.5ac) land. World production has been estimated at 61.7 million tons (FAO, 2009) with an average yield of 5.2 tons / ha.  The top ten producing countries are listed in table 1 below;


Table 1: Top ten coconut producing countries in the world

Country

Production  (tons)

2009

%  of World Production

Acreage under Production (ha)

Yield/ha

(tons)

Indonesia

21,565,700

34.9

3,231,710

6.67

Philippines

15,667,600

25.4

3,401,500

4.61

India

10,148,000

16.4

1,903,000

5.33

Sri Lanka

2,099,000

3.4

394,840

5.32

Brazil

1,973,370

3.2

284,058

6.95

Thailand

1,380,980

2.2

237,882

5.80

Vietnam

1,128,500

1.8

121,500

9.29

Mexico

1,004,710

1.6

155,713

6.45

Papua New Guinea

930,000

1.5

216,000

4.30

Malaysia

459,640

0.7

166,400

2.76

WORLD

61,708,358

 

11,864,344

5.20

 Source: FAO Statistics 2009

Figure 1:  World Coconut Production – top ten producers


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Production is often estimated using reported copra production, area planted or administrative estimates, since by the very nature of coconut production, it is virtually impossible to do an accurate count of the number of coconuts. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the production data underestimates actual production. Also, there is usually a gap between production and harvesting, influenced by the price. If this price is too low the farmer has little incentive to harvest.

World production has been relatively stable over the period 2008 – 2009, having increased by only 0.4% from 61.4 million tons in 2008 (FAO Statistics, 2008). Production continued to be concentrated in Indonesia, Philippines and India. The Asian and Pacific countries, 17 of them produce 90% of the world’s coconuts.

b) ACP Countries

Forty- seven (47) of the seventy-seven ACP (African, Caribbean & Pacific) member countries produced 4.59 million tons of coconuts in 2009 on 1.7 million hectares. This represented 7.4% of world production. In 2008, 4.75 million tons were produced on 1.6 million hectares (7.7% of world production).  The only ACP country in the top ten producers was Papua New Guinea. Average production in this group 2.6 tons /ha was way below the world average of 5.2 tons / ha. Output from the Caribbean region declined over the period from 504,877 tons in 2008 to 410,395 tons in 2009. This was as a result of  storm damage as well as the wave of lethal yellowing and Red Palm mite infestation.

Coconut products:

World coconut oil production has been increasing over the past decade. It is now estimated at 3.5 million tons per annum. This accounts for 2.5% of world vegetable oil production. Over 70% of global coconut oil production comes from the Philippines and Indonesia (Table 2 refers). The only ACP countries in the top ten coconut oil producers were Papua New Guinea and     Côte d’ Ivoire. Some of the former large oil producing countries have significantly reduced production because of the higher price being obtained for the fresh nuts (Vietnam). Some are actually importing fresh nuts to satisfy their demand (Thailand, Sri Lanka) while it has become uneconomical for others to produce (Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico). Others still like Malaysia and Thailand have moved towards producing coconut milk and other food products.

Table 2: World Coconut oil production

Country

Production

(,000 MT)

Philippines

1,690

Indonesia

968

India

447

Vietnam

153

Mexico

145

Papua New Guinea

63

Thailand

46

Sri Lanka

38

Malaysia

32

Cote D’Ivoire

28

WORLD

3.59

Source: USDA (estimated in 2011)

Desiccated coconut is a well established product and a larger number of countries can produce it than coconut oil. Production falls between the levels of coconut oil and coconut milk in revenue terms. Global production of desiccated coconut averages between 180- 290,000 tonnes annually. This is dominated by the Philippines, Sri Lankar and Indonesia. While production is waning in Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil & Sri Lankar, new capacity is being developed in Papua New Guinea.

Global production of coconut husks has been estimated at 23 million tons. This is the largest potential growth area for coconuts. It is used in the production of some 6 million tons of coir fiber and 14 million tons of peat (FAO stats.)

Consumption

The three most important forms of consumption for coconuts are fresh (including drinking), coconut oil and desiccated coconut.

Global consumption of fresh nuts is growing at a remarkable pace for coconut water and milk (some 30% of coconut consumption). Coconut water is growing in popularity worldwide as a healthy beverage and the milk is used in a number of food products. The issues of preservation and packaging to extend the shelf life of both coconut water and milk have been addressed with the use of aseptic packaging using Tetra Pak paper. Although this is a very expensive technology, it is the future for these products. The demand for nuts to satisfy this growing market is putting pressure on supplies. With the purchase of two Brazilian coconut water manufacturing Companies, one by Pepsi Cola and one by Coca Cola, coconut water entered the mainstream soft drink market. Also nearly every supermarket in Europe and Australia carries more than two brands of coconut milk.

Coconut oil remains the most important form of consumption of coconuts. The European Union Group of 27 countries is the largest consumer of coconut oil in the world, currently utilizing some 743,000 metric tonnes per annum. Most of the 3.5 million tonnes of oil produced annually is utilized. The oil is unique for fatty acid extraction and is used in production of margarine and soaps. Coconut oil accounts for under 2% of global edible oil consumption and this contribution is declining as the consumption of the other edible oils is increasing.

There is increasing attention being given to use of coconut oil for energy generation, either mixed with diesel or as a substitute for diesel. Various incentives and subsidies have led to bio-fuels becoming increasing popular in the USA and Europe and this is now being encouraged in other countries like Malaysia. Once price differences between petroleum and edible oils widen it usually becomes  more attractive to use edible oils for fuel.

 

The consumption of desiccated coconuts is growing in the emerging economies like China. Demand is stable and resilient to normal market price fluctuations. 

Marketing & Trade

There are two major markets for coconuts – copra and fresh, the latter commanding a higher price than the former. The market for copra and oil is worldwide. Most large/ medium coconut producers crush the copra themselves and have oil mills. As a consequence of this only about 4% of the copra produced is exported. The majority is exported as oil. 

Coconut oil exports have been increasing over the last decade mainly because of the greater global need for the essential characteristics of coconut oil. In 2008, just over 2 million tonnes coconut oil were traded on the world market (Table 3 & 4 refers). The Philippines was the largest exporter of coconut oil in 2008, with 42% of world exports.  The main destination markets for the oil were USA and Europe accounting for 24% and 25% of imports respectively.  

Supplies of coconut oil on the global market are being adversely affected by problems affecting production e.g. pests and disease, ageing plantations and harvesting problems. It is also affected by competition for the fresh nuts for coconut water.

Organizations such as the EU provide assistance in the form of preferential tariffs as well as price support to imports from the Pacific Islands.

Table 3: Imports of Coconut, Copra oil & Desiccated coconuts (top 5 countries in each category)

Country

Coconuts

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Coconut oil

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Desiccated Coconut

(tons)

Value

($,000)

China

101,415

18,919

146,533

193,657

Malaysia

44,269

5,754

147,451

215,276

USA

29,785

16,877

499,148

642,320

31,009

53,883

United Arab Emirates

19,446

6,135

18,765

20,546

Singapore

15,722

6,350

23,500

27,158

Netherlands

308,475

349,203

Germany

205,421

274,661

19,950

31,495

Belgium

16,613

29,754

WORLD

342,139

 

2,097,597

 

272,223

 

Source: FAO Statistics 2008

Just over 350,000 tons fresh nuts were traded on the world market in 2008. The leading exporting country was Vietnam (26% world exports).  Figure 1 traces the major coconut trade flows involving Indonesia, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka as the significant exporters.


Figure 1 Major trade flows from Indonesia, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka

 

Map legend    Major trade flows from Indonesia, Viet Nam and Sri Lanka

Country

Trading partner/value ($US)

Indonesia

Singapore – $21,717,969

Malaysia – $10,878,991

Viet Nam

China – $19,389,479

Dominican Republic – $557,440

Sri Lanka

Pakistan – $3,400,450

Iran  - $1,370,954

Netherlands – $1,283,676

 
 
 

China was the largest importer of fresh nuts on the world market accounting for 29.6% of world imports. Fresh nuts are supplied to processors in international markets to be sold as drinks, milk, desiccated coconut and candy.  These high value products compete with each other and their prices vary depending on demand and supply. 

Table 4: Exports of Coconut, Copra oil & Desiccated coconuts (top 5 countries in each category)

Country

Coconuts

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Coconut oil

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Desiccated Coconut

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Vietnam

93,501

17,097

 

 

Indonesia

85,452

40,958

649,362

769,134

55,431

48,253

Sri Lanka

31,814

12,458

 

 

36,263

64,713

Thailand

31,401

12,081

 

Dominican Republic

24,022

8,301

 

Philippines

840,449

905,893

99,233

148,145

Netherlands

196,584

268,310

13,288

22,969

Malaysia

129,553

173,708

 

USA

14,173

19,030

Singapore

23,770

31,356

WORLD

360,349

 

2,009,037

 

287,969

 

Source: FAO Statistics 2008

Approximately 279,000 tons of desiccated coconuts were traded on the world market in 2008. It was dominated by Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia with the Philippines exporting 34% of world exports. The major importers remain USA and Europe accounting for 11% and 13% total world imports respectively. The product is high value and captures a higher price than copra and coconut oil.

ACP countries 

In the ACP countries, trade in the three main coconut products increased over the period 2007- 2008, with imports increasing by 24% and exports increasing by 18%. In 2008 the group imported 12,245 tons fresh nuts, 9,035 tonnes of coconut oil and 3,734 tonnes of desiccated coconuts (See Figure 2). The main importing countries were Tanzania (fresh nuts), Madagascar (oil) and Niger (desiccated coconut)

Figure 2:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quantities exported were much higher- 47,906 tons of fresh nuts, 96,833 tons of coconut oil and 5,487 tons desiccated coconuts (See figure 3). The main exporting countries were Dominican Republic (fresh nuts), Papua New Guinea (coconut oil) and Madagascar (desiccated coconut).  See Table 5.

Figure 3


Table 5: Exports of Coconuts, Coconut oil & Desiccated coconuts – ACP Countries

Country

Coconuts

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Coconut oil

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Desiccated Coconut

(tons)

Value

($,000)

Papua New Guinea

0

0

58,483

67,082

0

0

Vanuatu

0

0

10,282

10,919

0

0

Mozambique

0

0

7,325

10,803

0

0

Cote d’Ivoire

19,849

3,725

9,978

8,428

0

0

Fiji

0

0

5,006

5,846

0

0

Dominican Republic

24,022

8,301

0

0

0

0

Tanzania

568

1,336

0

0

0

0

Uganda

0

0

0

0

1,297

3,742

Madagascar

0

0

0

0

1,500

821

Total Exports ACP countries

47,906

 

96,833

 

 5,587

 

Source: FAO Statistics 2008

Prices

The price of fresh coconuts on the major markets currently range between US$0.25 – 0.30 each. In Asia, Africa and the Caribbean the price is between US$0.12-0.20 with retail prices as high as $1 US. China currently imports fresh nuts at US$0.30 from Vietnam. The high prices of fresh nuts have led countries like Vietnam, Malaysia & Thailand to reduce or cease oil production altogether in preference for higher priced fresh nut market. 

The world price for coconut oil is determined by prices of other edible oils like palm oil and soya oil. The prices of these oils fluctuate in cycles, however coconut oil prices have been increasing over the last few years and now cost more than soya and palm oil.  The world market price currently averages US$1,500 / ton while the average price paid by ACP countries for coconut oil was estimated at US$1,327/ ton based on the value of imports in 2008.

The demand for desiccated coconuts is stable and resilient and this high end product captures US$2,000 per ton, a price which is higher than copra and coconut oil.

Outlook

Now that the coconut is considered a healthy food, there is a shift in the market towards high-valued food uses for the coconut such as tender coconut water, coconut milk, spray dried coconut milk, coconut vinegar and virgin coconut oil (VCO). Although this would put added pressure on supplies, it should serve to strengthen coconut prices to the benefit of the grower, who should get a higher price for his coconuts in the long term. This would serve as a great incentive to continue and expand production.

 

Also, the husk market is growing for coir production, to be used mainly in the processing of geo textiles. These are used in mattresses and car seat upholstery. China and India together are leading consumers of coir fibre as well as the rubberized coir made from it. Rubberized coir is the most valuable product which could be made from coconuts and it is sure to attract serious investment in the future.

 

With the expanding coconut-derived product base and the development of successful commercialized technologies, it is inevitable that new markets would evolve. Therefore, the outlook for the coconut industry is bright.


References

http://fruit-crops.com/coconut/

http://ruraldevelopmentinfo/coconuts.aspx

 

Chan, Edward and Elevitch, Craig R., 2006.  Species profile for Pacific Island Agro forestry.

Singh, R. H., Seepersad, G., Rankine, L.B., December 2007.” The Regional Coconut Industry – Global Market Intelligence”

Vinay Chand Associates., January 2011 – “Coconuts at the Crossroad” – An article published by the APCC and to be reprinted in the Indian Journal of Coconuts

Commodity Research Bureau – Fundamentals 2008- Commodity Articles on Coconut oil and Copra.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Statistics- 2007, 2008, 2009

USDA Index Mundi – 2011.

World Bank Commodity Data. September 2008


Last updated on 4/27/2012