Banaban Voice

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The world's growing demand for Coconut Sugar and other by products

With the world focus now on Virgin Coconut Oil and Banaban Women's efforts on Rabi to get a commerical venture up and running I would also like to remind all Banabans that you also have one of the greatest cultural assets already within your grasp - Ka maimai

Ka maimai mainly in crystalize sugar form is now in huge demand. I hope to launch a range of TRADITIONAL coconut related food products in the future naturally sweetened with Ka maimai and made from local island fruits and coconuts of course. The potential is unlimited and these are products that your ancestors have made for centuries.

The rest of the world is finally finding out just how good these traditional foods are, and how healthy they are for you.

Let's hope the VCO is just the start of many traditional food style products and that many of the traditional skills of toddy cutting can be regenerated by the younger generations of Banaban farmers.

Exciting times ahead!

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Comment by Takesau Tabore on March 6, 2011 at 4:07pm

Thanks for the clips Aunty Stacey!!.Very informative indeed. I'll do my best to spread the message to ALL Banabans everywhere. It would become a good source of income besides a healthier sugar alternative but most of all prolong lives that have inherited diabetes thru the 200 odd years of eating rice, biscuits, condensed milk,salted and corned beef. I envisage a healthier and more prosperous generation. God bless the Banabans! Regards Takesau.

Comment by Stacey King on March 5, 2011 at 8:24am


While this video is all about Palm Sugar and not Coconut Sugar it shows the whole industry and how it is worked from village level right through to finished product and how that the replanting and preservation of Palms is being implemented. At the moment Palm Oil commercial production in Malaysia is destroying natural habitat for the Orangatang and Elephants. There has already been a call here in Australia and USA and other western countries to ban the import of Palm oil because of this.

For these projects it is so important to work and preserve the environment. Rabi has been a copra plantation back to the early 1900's of the Lever Bros days. It is important to restore the trees and ensure that Rabi remains a pristine natural environment. It is one of the Banabans greatest assets.

Please take the time to watch this video and see how the people of Cambodia have made and industry out of a traditional skill that has been passed down over the generations.

Comment by Stacey King on March 5, 2011 at 8:04am



In this other video from Thailand they are adding cane sugar to the toddy. Please make sure you don't adopt this method to your traditional production. Here in western countries everyone is trying to get away from sugar and that is why coconut sugar is such a healthy low GI alternative.

Comment by Stacey King on March 5, 2011 at 7:57am

This video is on the toddy cutting from Kerela, India. Ken said it is a different technique to the way the Banabans or Pacific Island do it.

Comment by Stacey King on March 5, 2011 at 7:52am

I found this video from Thailand on how they are making Coconut Sugar. Look at the way they just cut off and squeeze the whole coconut flower shoot to get the sap to boil for sugar. Very different to Banaban method but would be intereting to see how much sap they get from this method compare with cutting and drain the spat on a daily basis.

Making Coconut Sugar in Thailand

Comment by Stacey King on March 4, 2011 at 10:35am

Fantastic money and more than half of what you would get for export market competing with Philippines. So this is where you should focus all your efforts. Now main focus should be on setting up a standard that is acceptable with McD's and this is what you aim for. What ever sample they approve is what you have to aim for. Slightly golden, darker etc. As I said major problem is overcooking or under-processing the syrup. Has to be perfect!. Once you get the perfect one, a simple cooking thermometer will give you the exact temperature. Over the years I donated a few of these to the Rabi Women’s Interest group to use. Don’t know if they still have them but this is essential for setting up your SOP. Otherwise ask the Chairman if he can order one in Suva. Should be no more than about $30 and the best money you will spend. The Chairman has already given me some kamaimai for testing but it was a little dark. I think you have to make sure that the sample McDonalds approves is your STANDARD. Then we get that one tested and SOP written for that one. Food Analysis here in Australia will cost about AUD$1,700 which is over FJD3,000.  See if USP or other food lab in Fiji can do this for your first. Otherwise I will get it done here in Australia using our lab.

Again this is a good exercise to show you that all your focus for Kaimaimai and VCO should be at local Fiji level. You have excellent local markets willing to pay you top dollar for your products. All you have to do now is offer a good quality supply.
When you are competing in export marketplace you work on much higher volumes usually 20 FCL (full container loads) which is the equivalent of 20 pallets = 16,000Litres packed in 200L totes or 20 x 1,000L totes = 20,000L. Export pricing is much lower based on volume and large turn over. This is why export pricing is much lower than what your get at local level at premium pricing.

So as you can see the local Fiji market is the perfect marketplace for getting your products off the ground. It’s an excellent learning curve to know what standards you must produce your products to and develop good customer relations with your customers. Once you get this right you can always grow your business to compete at international export level. That’s exactly how we started our business supplying VCO in the Australian marketplace. Just started making small 125ml bottles of our scented oils based on what the Banaban women had made for centuries with fresh flowers added to the oil; frangipani, sandalwood, ylang-ylang etc, now we turn over about 1 x 20FCL (16,000L) of bulk VCO a month. The demand has grown and we have grown as a company to meet that demand and so has the farm.

So I can’t emphasis enough to start small and make sure you get quality right first. Everything else will follow as your customers fall in love with your products and the excellent service you give them.

You all have a wonderful opportunity and this opportunity can quickly spread across the entire community.  Truely EXCITING TIMES AHEAD...


Comment by Kirennang Tokiteba on March 4, 2011 at 9:35am
Very true aunty Stacey! I can imagine the hype it will generate if it gets started. MacDonalds(Fiji Ltd) is willing to pay up to $20/litre if it meets the necessary requirements but provided we can supply them at least 200 litres per month for a start. EXCITING TIMES AHEAD!!! Regards Takesau.
Comment by Stacey King on March 3, 2011 at 8:45pm

Yes it is very important to preserve and pass on the skill of Toddy Cutting as part of Banaban traditional daily life in the past and for today's society. In the end it is only now that te I-Matang are finding out what your ancestors knew for centuries. I hope the younger Banaban generation will learn just how important these skills are and how highly valued they are in western (te I-Matang) society. Hoping that with the cultural programme at Rabi High School that these skills can also be taught and will become valued by future generations.

I think our Chairman has long been wanting to see a replanting programme for Rabi and knowing him he probably already has plans afoot to do just that. From what we have heard from the farm the coconut trees take about 14months to recover after a cyclone. We are getting close to the 12month mark now so hopefully the trees will be well on their way to recovery by now.

It was also interesting on my last visit to Rabi that one of my son in laws (who is a very skilled toddy cutter) showed me the coconuts trees that were the perfect ones for the best toddy supply. So the skills of not only gathering the toddy but also choosing the right trees to start with is all part of the art.

The trees don't have to be tall at all and from what I gather the shorter the tree the easier to harvest the sap. Anyway I have always had a special interest in Ka maimai when the Banaban women first got me to try it years ago. Well before I ended up in the coconut business.

I believed then it was a wonderful product and now with such a world interest in everything coconut and all the health benefits that go with it as well, the time is perfect to now try and commericalise this Banaban art.

Regards Stacey

Comment by Takesau Tabore on March 3, 2011 at 1:20pm

Thank you Aunty Stacey. I'll get in touch with the Chairman to inform all councillors then to all Banabans. Just on the flip side, I think that replanting of coconut trees must begin immediately since most of the existing ones have outlived their productive capacity and most of the younger trees were badly damaged by the last cyclone. In the meantime maybe the older generation can hone their skills and start teaching the younger generation the finer details of toddy extraction. Regards Takesau

Comment by Stacey King on March 3, 2011 at 7:00am

Also Takesau if you can get the word out to locals...

Don't forget Coconut vinegar as well. I know this is made in Rabi and Kiribati and I have trialled 3 different version from the Philippines lately.

1. From  coconut toddy

2. From coconut toddy blended with garlic, chilli and various spices

3. From a blend of sour toddy and looked like coconut juice.

Also Coconut Jams.... all made from different island tropical fruits and swettened naturally with kamaimai - NO SUGAR must be used.

We also have a high demand here for coconut flour, but not easy to produce with out larger type machinery.

Regards Stacey


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