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FIJI TIMES ONLINE Arin Kumar Saturday, March 05, 2011

THE coconut is on the comeback trail thanks to the many income-generating opportunities that rural dwellers are exploiting.

Speaking during a training course for officers of the Agriculture Department, agricultural extension officer Susana Yalikanacea said the once dying industry was resurrecting itself because of the rising prices of many of its by-products like virgin coconut oil, biofuel, crude coconut oil, drink (bu) nuts and whole nuts.

"It is these by-products that are drawing the interest of growers and investors thus creating a positive impact on the demand and price," Ms Yalikanacea said.

"Copra was once the leading foreign exchange earner for the country, but it has declined over the years mainly due to misconceptions on the health related issues of its oil and fat.

"Three years ago, the price of copra used to hover at around $500 a tonne.

"Today, the mill gate price of copra is about $1200 a tonne and it seems to be giving copra production a new lease of life".

Virgin coconut oil a multi-purpose oil derived from coconut can be used for cooking and cosmetics and has proven health benefits; it sells at around $10 to $20 a litre.

"It takes about 6000 nuts to produce one tonne of copra and it takes 10 nuts to produce a litre of virgin oil.

"When you compare returns, it means that 6000 nuts will produce about 600 litres of VCO with a return of about $6000 to $12,000 compared to the $1200 a tonne for copra".

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