Coconut, Cocos nucifera is the number one palm tree with highest economic value and accompanying investment opportunities along its value chain. If properly utilized, every parts of coconut tree and its fruit can be used or converted into valuable products hence it is often referred to as ‘Tree of Abundance’ or ‘Tree of Hundred Uses’. Coconut’s health benefits, multiple products, good adaption of coconut tree to varying climatic and soil conditions including saline soils, islands and coasts of the subtropics and tropics and several industrial applications of its by-products are the major drives for investment.
Interestingly, Coconut plantation has been established in more than 100 developing tropical countries with India being the leader in coconut production. Other major coconut producers are Indonesia, Philippines, Srilanka, Thailand and Malaysia.
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In recent times, products from coconuts have successfully been exported to United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Pakistan, Myanmar and other countries. The burgeoning demand of local and international manufacturing, food, horticultural and cosmetic industries for coconut products make it a good investment option.
Important coconut value chains that could be harnessed for investment opportunities are described below;
Coconut Nursery Establishment: This is intended to provide good and uniform coconut seedlings for coconut plantation. The production and management of coconut seedlings in the nursery decides the performance of coconut in the field and ultimately the quality of the produce. Sustainable and profitable yield depend on quality of coconut seedlings. 12 months nuts are used as coconut seeds for nursery establishment. Most farmers’ expectations are that the coconut seedlings should be short-statured, early maturing, high yielding in terms of fruits, copra content and oil content. You could be input supplier for new coconut farms and generate income. However, there is need for collaboration between research institutes and stakeholders for improved coconut seedlings production. Several cultivars have been developed mainly the Tall, Dwarf and Hybrid cultivars. Each one has its own uniqueness and properties.
Coconut Plantation: Any investment in coconut value addition or processing depends heavily on coconut plantation. Coconut plantation is loaded with numerous business and economic benefits for investors, companies, cooperative societies and producing countries. 9-12 months old seedlings are used for plantation establishment. Once coconut trees are established they begin flowering and fruiting from 2.5 – 3 year for Dwarf cultivars while Tall cultivars may take seven (7) years to start flowering and fruiting. Hybrid cultivars usually take 4 years. Harvesting of coconut fruits occurs in 12 months or less depending on the cultivar. Moreover, utilization purpose influences harvesting time. A single tree can produce more or less than 120 fruits per year for more or less than 40 economic years. If you have a population density of 177 – 202 trees per hectare, you could be harvesting between 21,240 – 24,240 fruits per hectare per year. If you have several hectares cultivated, that could generate a lot of cash if you are selling to processors or exporting. International price of dehusked coconut ranges from US $227 – 410 per metric ton. Organic coconut plantation is emerging with promise of higher price in the global market especially for valued added products from coconut.
Toddy Production: Apart from fruit harvesting, coconut plantation could be harnessed for toddy production for improved income generation. Toddy production is one of the most profitable value added products from coconut. Toddy also known as Neera or Palm Nectar is a vascular sap or sugar containing juice collected from immature unopened coconut inflorescence. It is a health drink rich in vitamins and minerals. Much like palm wine, toddy is susceptible to natural fermentation at ambient temperature. Cold storage and modern packaging of toddy into aluminum cans, PET bottles or glass bottles makes it fresh and unfermented. Tapping of toddy can be done for 6 months in a year from matured coconut plantation. Producing 1,000 – 10,000 litres per day could be achieved. Toddy can further be processed into Coconut flower syrup, Coconut jaggery, Coconut vinegar and Coconut palm sugar (sweetener).
Coconut Water Production: The relevance of coconut water as health drinks for sport men/women, infants and diabetic patients is growing in the global markets. Coconut water is obtained from tender coconut at 6-9 months from time of pollination. It naturally contains simple sugars, minerals, proteins and vitamins. Green dwarf cultivar yield more water than other cultivars. One fruit of green dwarf can yield up to 435g of water at 6-8 month. Coconut water packed into pouches or aluminum cans has extended shelf life of more than six months under normal room temperature and 12 months under refrigerated condition. Coconut water in combination with other materials can be used to produce coconut honey, coconut lemonade, etc.
Coconut Kernel Processing: Coconut kernel also known as Copra is the edible part of coconut fruit. Coconut kernel are eaten fresh or made into Sweetened/salted coconut chips, Coconut crisps, Roasted young coconut, Desiccated coconut and Coconut powder. Coconut milk, Coconut milk powder and Coconut cream are also produced from the kernel. Most of these products require mature kernel of 12 months old or more. 6,000 fully matured coconuts could yield 1 tonne of kernel. All these are viable products that could transform coconut industry. International price of desiccated coconut ranges from US $2040 – 2936, copra price ranges from US $993 – 1392 per metric ton,
Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Production: Relevance of VCO in food industry, specialty soaps and skin care products such as lotions, creams and scented body oils is escalating as it is the only oil which is edible and has several other functions. VCO production requires matured kernel and it is made from milk extracted from the matured raw kernel. It is considered ‘Mother of all oils’ because it is extracted pure without any chemical process and heat application. This makes VCO to be highly priced and sought-after product in the local and international markets. In the international market, the price of VCO per metric ton ranges from US $1710 – 3200. Kernel cake obtained after oil extraction is of great value in animal feed industry.
Coconut By-products Processing: Inedible by-products obtained during fruit processing are used for handicraft items, coco coir and coconut shell charcoal production. Coconut shell charcoal or activated carbon has huge applications in fluid refinery and purification. Activated carbon was the single largest item of export both in terms of quantity in India. International price of coconut shell charcoal ranges from US $386 – 482. Coconut shell is also used for handicrafts items like ladles, neck chain, forks, show piece, shell buttons, ice creams cup etc. Coco coir is an essential growing medium used in horticulture.
Coconut Palm Stem Processing: Once coconut tree is over 50 years, fruit production declines rapidly, removal of old trees become necessary to make space for new plantation. These coconut trees can be processed into coconut timbers which are used for making furniture and carpentry works. Timbers from palm trees are durable and priced well.
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