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By Bremebil Kuble

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (February 7, 2001 - The National/ PINA Nius Online)---Coconut water now has the potential to be processed into a sport drink, a South Pacific trade publication has disclosed.

Business Pacific said that athletes and night-clubbers could soon have a new high-energy drink - bottled coconut water.

It said the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has patented new technology for bottling the juice while retaining all its natural salts, sugars and vitamins.

Coconut water's high nutritional value could not be preserved before the development of the new technology, it added.

Business Pacific is the South Pacific Trade Commission's publication aimed at promoting trade and business in the region.

"This development holds tremendous promise for the tropical countries. Countries that process or export coconuts and small farmers who grow them will be the main beneficiaries of the newly patented technology," said the FAO's Morton Satin.

"The FAO is making the patented process available to all interested companies. Companies in the beverage industry have already shown interest."

The FAO has also tested a coconut drink with added sucrose and L-absorbic acid, to approximate the vitamin and energy content of major sports drinks.

Mr. Satin said he saw coconut water as a natural contender in the world's US$ 1 billion (K 3.1 billion) sports drink market.

"What could be better than a natural beverage product with the delicate aroma, taste, drinking characteristics and nutritional value of pure, fresh, tender coconut water, plus all the functional characteristics required of a sports drink?" he asked.

Not much, according to PNG's Copra Marketing Board chairman Jerry Nalau.

Mr. Nalau said the new high energy sports drink could be just what the coconut industry in PNG needs to maintain its long term viability.

He said the new technology held tremendous promise for tropical countries.

The new process will "allow manufacturers to bottle coconut water that is biologically pure, very tasty and full of salt, sugar and vitamins demanded by both sweating urban joggers and serious athletes."

Mr. Nalau said the prospects looked promising, and the Copra Marketing Board would be contacting FAO for access to the technology.

The coconut industry in Papua New Guinea over the years has not been faring well due to depressed market conditions and in the process is losing its traditional role.

To maintain the industry, the PNG Cocoa and Coconut Research Institute is looking at ways to diversify coconut products but this has progressed slowly.

CMB's buying into this new technology would be good news for the growers.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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