Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific

Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific (CIDP) is a joint initiative of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the European Union (EU) as part of a broader economic partnership between the EU and the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) states. The aim of CIDP is to bolster the coconut sector in the region through improving the competitiveness of small producers engaged in the coconut value chains, strengthening regional integration of related markets and the intensification of production across the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The programme runs 2016-2018 and is valued at 4 million Euro.

CIDP Programme Background
Friday, 30 July 2010 10:56

Coconuts have a unique potential to support sustainable and healthy rural livelihoods throughout the Pacific islands and can be a key driver for employment, income generation and economic growth in the region.

Coconut in the Pacific countries and societies is considered the ‘tree of life’. It is a major element in the diets of local people and is vital for food security health and economic reasons. The coconut industry also goes beyond that – in that it is woven into the fabric of Pacific communities providing raw material and a critical input for family and societal needs such as housing, transport, ornaments, culture and other elements. In terms of livelihoods, Pacific communities are largely rural based and coconut plays a very important economic role, particularly in the more isolated rural communities, where formal employment is scarce and where other alternative cash crops do not exist.

Coconut is also important for environmental reasons. Where this crop is abundant as in many coastal areas of the higher islands and atolls of the region, it provides good soil protection against the erosion effect of high tides and a remarkable degree of resilience in relation to tropical cyclones.

Commercially oriented production of coconut for copra and coconut oil extraction started in the colonial times when European settlers established plantations all throughout the region from 1890 to 1930 (Great Depression). During this period small holders also managed to add their own production to the plantation’s exports of copra which for them presented high returns. After the 1960s the price of coconut started declining together with other vegetable oils with its image as a food commodity severely deteriorated[1], as significant competition with other oil commodities such as soy oil appeared.

As a result, active management of plantations was neglected or abandoned and investment in coconut rejuvenation was mostly brought to a halt. In most PICs coconut production is today predominantly a small holder activity and coconut stands are, in a large proportion, senile with production generally in decline. In Fiji alone, out of the existing 6.8 million bearing palms, 70% are senile (more than 100 years old)[2]. It is estimated that roughly 65% and 50% of existing palms are senile in Kiribati[3] and PNG respectively[4].

Interest in coconut and investment in plantations remains low in most cases and many producers are turning their attention to other more high value agricultural commodities with better potential for higher returns. At the same time, in some countries some large estate owners have partially utilised their land for real estate purposes, targeting foreign investors.

However new market opportunities have emerged in high value products from green coconut and other parts of the plant (VCO, coconut water and coconut sugar). These are becoming increasingly popular due to newly identified health benefits debunking previous views which regarded coconut oil as an unhealthy edible oil due to its saturated fat content that could cause heart disease.

A greater demand for these products may bring in parallel positive effects in local economies and producers groups directly benefitting from higher whole nut prices at lower production costs (when compared to copra sales). Using the right technology and approach, producers, and in particular women groups, may be able to have a stronger role in coconut related value chains or even directly sell to the final consumer market.

CIDP aims to capitalise on these trends and bolster the sector through improving the competitiveness of small producers engaged in coconut value chains.

[1] ACIAR - Proceedings of a workshop held at the Pacific Coconut Research and Development Meeting, Apia, Samoa, October 31st to the 2nd of November 2012

[2] Current Status of the Coconut Industry in the Republic of Fiji: Lessons for the Caribbean Countries  Vatimi Rayalu, and Ravindra C. Joshi CTA/CARDI Workshop on Coconut Industry Development for the Caribbean : Towards a Shared Vision & Road Map , 7th-8th October, 2013, Guyana International Conference Centre, Guyana

[3] Kiribati presentation at the 51st APCC Ministerial Meeting, Kochi, India, 02nd February 2014

[4] Papua New Guinea presentation at the 51st APCC Ministerial Meeting, Kochi, India, 02nd February 2014