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Pacific communities to benefit from coconut processing manual
Suva, Fiji, 28 October 2011 - A new coconut processing manual published by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) will assist community-based producers in the Pacific to improve the quality of their value-added coconut products to meet international market requirements.
The Processing Manual for Virgin Coconut Oil, its Products and By-products for Pacific Island Countries and Territories by Ms Divina D. Bawalan was launched earlier this week at a meeting for Pacific agricultural stakeholders in Nadi, Fiji.
The production and printing of the manual was made possible through the support of the European Union.
Launching the manual, Vinay Chand, a leading United Kingdom-based consultant on coconut processing and marketing said, ‘This manual is intended as a primary source of practical knowledge on the proper handling and processing of fresh coconuts to ensure that virgin coconut oil (VCO) and its by-products will be produced to meet and possibly exceed international standards.’
Virgin coconut oil from the Pacific is being exported to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and United States markets.
‘One of the concerns with producing VCO on a home, micro and village scale operation (especially for home consumption and domestic markets) is achieving a product with consistently good quality that will meet international standards and will always be fit for human consumption,’said Mr Chand.
‘It is envisioned that the manual will lead to a better understanding of coconut oil and its quality parameters so that VCO processors can easily respond to the queries of their buyers,’ he added.
The purest form of coconut oil, VCO has been generating a lot of interest in coconut-producing countries as well as importing nations because of its multi-functional uses and the way it can be produced at different production levels. VCO production offers an opportunity for the Pacific region’s coconut farmers to increase their income with this alternative to low value copra production.
Aside from presenting VCO processing technologies specifically suited to Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs), the manual covers options for the processing of coconut shell, water from mature coconuts and coconut milk residue, which are by-products of VCO processing.
It also includes the processing of VCO-based downstream products such as herbal soap, aromatherapy oils and herbal lotions, using aromatic plants available in the Pacific.
The manual is a more focused version of the Virgin coconut oil production manual for micro and village scale processing published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in 2006. It was co-authored by Divina D. Bawalan, previously a senior science research specialist with the Philippine Coconut Authority, and Keith R. Chapman, formerly an industrial crops officer at FAO’s Asia-Pacific office.
In the course of conducting VCO training courses in PICTs since 2006, Ms Bawalan discovered that one of the simplest micro/home scale VCO processing technologies that was developed in the Philippines and documented in the FAO VCO manual, does not actually work well in the Pacific region. This may be due to the differences in coconut variety, coconut harvesting procedures and other factors.
As a result, for every training course conducted by Ms Bawalan in a Pacific country, modifications to the process were made, adapting it to the particular conditions of each country.
In 2009, at a roundtable meeting held in Nadi, Fiji discussed the state of the art of coconut processing and market prospects of coconut products in Pacific countries. Organised by SPC and the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community, the meeting highlighted the need for PICTs to focus on the production of high value coconut products.
Consequently, SPC’s Land Resources Division, which is mandated to improve the food and nutritional security of the Pacific community, arranged for Ms Bawalan to adapt her 2006 manual to Pacific conditions through its European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Trade (FACT) project.
Copies of the book are available through the European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) project, based in the Land Resources Division of SPC. Electronic editions can be downloaded