COCONUTS can be found on many Pacific islands. It's a natural resource that has the potential to be useful in so many ways. without letting something beneficial to the economy go to waste, government has embarked on positive outlook — to bring the prestigious copra industry back to life.
In a statement, Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Ropate Ligairi indicated positive notions to take the copra industry in a new direction — starting with diversifying traditional copra production to more lucrative value-added products.
"Copra maybe one of the most attractive commodities right now because of the rising demand worldwide as a health food and other health products it can produce," Mr Ligairi said.
"With our existing coconut plantations and current activities to rehabilitate and expand coconut planting, Fiji is well placed to venture in a big way into this line of business.
"Government is confident of the potential that coconut holds in this area of production both as a source of income for our rural population as well as a revenue earner for our country."
According to the ministry, coconut now enjoys a premier position in the world as a serious health food that is good for the heart, blood pressure and weight loss.
The ministry says it contains antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic healing properties apart from its other benefits.
"Coconut palm is probably the most useful palm in the world as every part of the tree is useful to human life for some purpose," the ministry said.
"In India, the coconut palm is endearingly called 'kalpavriksha' or the 'Tree of Heaven' while in Fiji, it is known as the 'Tree of Life'.
The copra obtained by drying the kernel of coconut is the richest source of vegetable oil containing 65 to 70 per cent oil.
"In the 1950s, coconut was a thriving industry in Fiji capable of producing over 40,000 tonnes of copra a year with estate owners being responsible for the production of up to 60 per cent of that figure.
"That landscape has changed dramatically with Fiji currently producing less than 20,000 tonnes a year with most of the copra being produced by the smallholder farmers."
Meanwhile, Mr Ligairi reiterated coconut will continue to be one of the most appropriate and sustainable sources of livelihood in the maritime provinces because of the limited alternative sources of income.
He said government was giving high priority to the development of the coconut industry in the area of value addition for the benefit of those in the coconut-growing areas of the country.