There’s a lot India can do with the wonder nutApril 10th, 2008 - 11:52 am ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) It’s a wonder nut all right. You put it in your hair, drink its water, grate and squeeze it for milk, and use it as fibre. And India can do even more with the coconut, say experts. With coconut prices failing to keep up with inflationary trends and competition growing, planters of this versatile nut are looking for alternative ways to enhance their incomes.
Coconut has traditionally given India oil - used for edible purposes, toiletry and industrial use. Coconut is also used for rafters for roofs, to make broomsticks and handicrafts.
P.K. Thampan of the Kochi-based Peekay Tree Crops Development Foundation said in a discussion put out online: “Coconut water-based vinegar is being produced on a commercial scale in a few units in Kerala and the product is enjoying good consumer acceptance both within and outside the state.”
Of the total production of coconuts, about five percent is consumed in the tender form for drinking purposes. The rest is utilised as mature nuts for household and religious purposes and for the production of edible copra, milling copra and desiccated coconut.
Some successful coconut ventures include coconut water-based health drinks, vinegar and miscellaneous food articles available in global markets.
There is a growing demand for nata de coco in Japan and Malaysia, and technology for making it is available. Nata de coco is a chewy, gel-like traditional Philippine dessert prepared from coconut water by bacterial fermentation.
There is also a large demand globally for kernel and sap based coconut products, coconut liquid milk, coco milk powder, and desiccated coconut.
Says farmer-journalist Shree Padre, who edits the journal Adike Patrike (Farmer’s Own Media), “In the recent past, we have carried stories of tender coconut minimal processing, virgin coconut oil, coconut broomstick home industry and more.”
Padre argues that the “need of the hour” is to help farmers build value-added products from their crops, which otherwise mostly earn only depressed prices.
Solution Exchange for the Food and Nutrition Security Community, a United Nations initiative to share information within India, recently raised this issue and got some useful hints about the versatile plant.
A coconut palm has 12 different crops at any point of time, from the opening flower to the ripe nut. Each part is a source of food, fibre, medicine or material for producing handicrafts.
New ideas are coming up for tender coconut water sales too.
Tender green coconut can be trimmed, shaped and attractively marketed by shrink-wrapping to prevent desiccation. Thailand has aptly used this method.
In India, several companies are innovatively marketing coconut water on green carts in Hyderabad, as ‘Tender Fresh’ in Bangalore and ‘Coconectar’ in Kerala.
Hyderabad-based D.S.K. Rao added: “I always felt that coconut farming has a greater potential than what is being currently exploited. I was pleasantly surprised to see in Hyderabad airport a green cart selling tender coconuts.”
Other commercial value additions for coconut, which are being increasingly noted, are canned sweet toddy, one of the major coconut products produced and marketed in Sri Lanka; coconut sugar - Indonesia and Thailand are the leaders - and coconut oil.
Coconut oil, besides being edible, is used in soaps, toiletry articles, safety glasses, rubber substitutes, paints and synthetic detergents. Glycerine, derived from coconut oil, is also in demand for medicines, personal care products, food and beverages and animal feed.
Virgin coconut (VC) oil is now emerging as the most valuable coconut product, with the Philippines as the major exporter. The export price ranges from $US8.00 to $12.00 per litre of cold processed oil.
Virgin coconut oil is derived from fresh coconuts (rather than dried, as in copra). It is produced by either quick drying of fresh coconut meat, wet milling (oil is extracted from fresh coconut without drying), or by adjustment of the water content, then the pressing of the coconut flesh results in the direct extraction of free-flowing oil.
In India, the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) has standardised a virgin coconut oil process by developing the necessary equipment suitable for micro enterprise and has worked on snowball tender coconut.
Besides, CPCRI has developed a range of copra dryers, which use agricultural waste as fuel. Kerala Agro Industries Corporation Ltd has applied these technologies.
Suggestions coming up include providing tender coconuts to schoolchildren under the Mid-Day Meal scheme that would greatly increase the demand.
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Tags: bacterial fermentation, broomstick, broomsticks, coconut products, coconut water, consumer acceptance, copra, development foundation, food articles, health drinks, india oil, inflationary trends, kochi, liquid milk, milk powder, religious purposes, shree, tree crops, value added products, virgin coconut oil