PNG LOOKS TO BROADEN COCONUT INDUSTRY

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By Colin Taimbari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 4) - The
National Government and the Kokonas Indastri Koporesan (KIK) are looking at
using other parts of the coconut to generate cash instead of relying only on
copra. 

Executive officer Ted Sitapai said KIK would encourage producers
to diversify after holding discussions with Dr Ponniah Rethinam, executive
director of Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APPC).

Agriculture Minister Moses Maladina agreed that lots of useful
products could be extracted from the coconut and he was hoping that with more
discussions, the government could look at promoting these other products.

Dr Rethinam said the palm tree popularly known as "Tree of
Life", "Tree of Heaven" or "Nature's Supermarket" had a
long history of providing man with useful materials for his daily life like
food, drink, medicine, fuel, shelter and wealth.

He said more than 100 products can be derived from the roots to
the tops of the coconut for commercial purposes in homes, cottage industries as
well as big industry.

Food products from the sap (juice) of the coconut include brown
sugar, toffee, beverage, toddy, vinegar and confectionary jelly, which have huge
markets in the United States and Asia.

The young coconut can be canned as syrup, while mature coconut
can be turned into desiccated coconut, low fat desiccated coconut, roasted
coconut paste, sweetened coconut strips and coconut oil.

Dr Rethinam, on his first visit to PNG, said much more can be
produced from a coconut including medicine for the heart and liver.

He said research has also shown and constant intake of the
coconut juice can "remove or slow" down HIV/AIDS.

"Coconut oil has been a life saver for many people. The
health and nutritional benefits derived from coconut oil is unique and
compelling. Coconut oil can play a very vital role in the removal of the
HIV/AIDS virus," he said.

He said the coconut oil was worth about US$439 million, while
the desiccated coconut market was worth US$679 million.

Dr Rethinam said PNG was one of the largest producers of copra
in the world but was falling behind due to various reasons.

He called on the PNG Government to encourage rural production,
which could be done by individuals and families but the processing part should
be done as a society or a community.

He suggested that 10 to 15 integrated pilot projects in
production and processing would create lots of employment and spin-offs and they
should be wholly managed and run by those involved in production and processing
of the coconut.

"I will not accept that coconut is a dying industry,
coconut industry can never die," he said.

"The problem is we have never tapped the potential properly
and fully and if we're not going to be competitive, we're going to
die." 

August 4, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

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