Going nuts

Minister for Agriculture Inia Seruiratu speaks to copra farmers during his talanoa session over the weekend. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

THE coconut industry could be on the cusp of a market revolution with the opportunity for farmers to earn up to $13,000 a tonne — more than 10 times what they earn from the sale of copra — which fetches $1000 per tonne, says Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu. The product that could revive interest in the industry that has been rife with challenges is desiccated coconut.

He said the potential to earn a lucrative living from the production and sale of processed coconut flesh was well within their grasp, provided farmers were prepared to invest.

During a visit to a farm at Dawana outside Savusavu yesterday, Mr Seruiratu said a foreign buyer was interested in buying the product at $9 to $14 a kilogram.

“If that market opens up, it is going to be something big with opportunities for our local copra farmers,” Mr Seruiratu said.

“Vanua Levu is the largest supplier of copra and this is a huge potential for farmers here. “Since this would mean production at a commercial level, it would also mean that farmers may need machinery like coconut scrapers and de-shellers.”

The Agriculture Minister said the processed coconut trade was no longer a male-dominated business and he urged women to look into getting involved in the desiccated coconut market.

Mr Seruiratu said he did not wish to reveal the buyer at the present time, but reassured farmers that there was keen interest for the product from outside Fiji.

He said the potential to earn high income could also help entice younger farmers into the coconut business.

“Primary industries like the copra industry and other primary industries in the world continue to face problems with getting young people to take interest. “I only hope that people realise the potential of agriculture in our nation and that this could encourage future generations to take advantage of this potential.

“There is huge potential in the coconut industry considering the health and medicinal value of the commodity. “In dried copra flesh or desiccated coconut there is a bright future for our farmers.”