Indian help for coconut industry revival
One of the Pacific Islands’ most lucrative industries of yesteryear, which provided employment to thousands of islanders, is set to receive a fillip.<!--more--> The coconut industry in the Pacific is in a moribund state because of a number of reasons ranging from competition from other tropical countries and transportation and logistic problems to climate change and changing agricultural priorities.
Several islands have ageing coconut and copra-processing facilities that are in dire need of modernisation and are languishing because of lack of investment. Kiribati is an example. As a result, thousands of tonnes of copra wastes away on the shores of islands and in coconut groves throughout the region. It is a valuable raw material for a number of products including an alternative energy source.
Fiji is on the verge of signing a deal with the Indian Government for assistance to further develop the coconut industry. Department of Agriculture permanent secretary Mason Smith has said, “India is one of the main producers of coconuts and copra products apart from Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, so it’s important that we latch on to their skills and expertise.”
Stakeholders of the coconut industry agreed on diversification as the pathway forward at the first National Coconut Forum that met in Savusavu in 2010. Diversifying into new products of the ‘all giving trees’ will allow producers to tap into a wider market other than just copra.
Fiji would link up with coconut experts in India’s picturesque southwestern state of Kerala, which commercially grows some six million nuts a year. It is an acknowledged authority on coconut diversification.
Other Pacific Islands countries could well take a cue from this. An opportunity to do so exists at next month’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Auckland, where a large contingent of Indian Government officials and some senior ministers will be present. India has a growing interest in trade ties with the Pacific Islands.