Vanuatu coconut oil firm rises from cyclone’s devastation

22/06/2015

Tropicaelan Virgin Coconut Oils (TVCO) in Vanuatu is optimistically moving into the future.<!--more-->

[caption id="attachment_7199" align="alignleft" width="138"]<a href="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/rsz_vco.png"><img class="size-full wp-image-7199" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/PTI/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/rsz_vco.png" alt="Vanuatu villagers at the VCO facility." width="138" height="104" /></a> Vanuatu villagers at the VCO facility.[/caption]

Just three months after TVCO moved into new premises in South East Ambrym, Vanuatu, Cyclone Pam swept through the islands wreaking devastation. TVCO had formed barely seven months earlier in July 2014 processing fresh coconut kernels into virgin coconut oil (VCO).

The initiative for the company grew when another VCO supplier Bella Trading (Oil) asked to help produce coconut oil and meet increased demand for it in Port Vila.

With assistance from the National Bank of Vanuatu TVCO purchased four coconut graters from New Zealand and purchased and processed nuts from the market and from Paunagisu, in the north of the country’s main island of Efate. But they wanted to be closer to a sustainable source of coconuts and also the labour market used to manually process the coconuts into oil - so they moved the whole operation closer.

From January to mid-March earlier in this year, the company was operating in full swing from the new premises. Production levels increased to about 1200 litres of Grade A, VCO and hundreds of litres of Grade B VCO with local mothers also helping out with the process and coconut oil coming in from the outer islands of Vanuatu. When the cyclone hit, TVCO was working on an order for 2000 litres of VCO to a New Zealand company.

PT&amp;I Trade Development Manager Mona Mato had also just arranged for a shipment of 20 litre white food grade pails and 100 litre bins to be made in Fiji and shipped to Vanuatu. “Some of the VCO producers are based in the outer islands and we felt that as part of growing the industry is to provide assistance with the oil pails to be shipped to Port Vila, then into the IBCs bound for New Zealand,” Mr Mato said.

Post cyclone numerous coconut palms were also knocked over but then TVCO rallied. It produced 1000 litres of coconut oil for the New Zealand buyer, shipped to Auckland. The remainder was bottled into 330ml and 1.5 litre bottles for sale in Port Vila. Mr Mato was able to fast track assistance from a Fiji based coconut oil supplier to complete the 2000 litre order on time.

“It goes to show we Pacific people are resilient and despite the odds, it’s business as usual. Only two months after the devastation, the industry has been able to send 1000 litres of VCO to the NZ buyer,” Mr Mato told <strong>Pacific Periscope</strong>.

Processing the coconut oil is done manually with the assistance of local villagers who dehusk and clean the nuts, grate the flesh from the nuts and squeeze the milk from the graded nuts. The remains of the grated coconut flesh are given to families to feed their pigs and chickens, fish and crabs.

Moving forward, TVCO has put in a proposal to mechanise the coconut production process and at the village level, explore ways to create coconut flour using grated coconut – however that is a little way down the track – with the company consolidating its efforts in coconut oil production. (Ends)

For more information please contact: PT&amp;I Trade Development Manager Teremoana Mato at +64 9 529 5165 or email <a href="mailto:mona.m@pacifictradeinvest.com">mona.m@pacifictradeinvest.com</a>