‘We are missing out on US$4billion coconut industry’

It is sold on every street of Ghana’s capital Accra. On a hot sunny day, many people take it to quench their thirst; coconut water and meat is loved by both the young and old in this tropical country.

But, there’s more to this fruit that has been ignored, rather unintentionally, for so long. The coconut industry is worth billions of dollars, but it remains underexplored in the country as it is mostly perceived to be a job for the less educated in society.

Globally, the coconut water industry is estimated to be worth US$2.2billion today and is expected to reach US$4billion by 2019.

In fact, the global coconut market is expected to maintain a healthy growth rate of 26.75 percent until the year 2020, according to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board.

It is also estimated by Statista, a research organisation, that demand for coconuts worldwide has grown by more than 500 percent in the past decade.

The amount of coconut milk consumed in the United States in 2015 alone is about US$201million.

The Future Markets Insights also reports that the global coconut flour market is estimated to be valued at more than US$380million in 2017, and is expected to cross US$720million by the end of 2027.

The same source states that in 2017 the coconut flour market in the North America region was estimated to be valued at more than US$140million, and is expected to register a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 6.8 percent in the next ten years to reach a market value of nearly US$274million by the end of 2027.

The global market for organic virgin coconut oil has also witnessed continued demand growth during the last few years, and is projected to reach US$1.28billion at a CAGR of 10.98 percent by 2022.

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In terms of value and volume, Market Research Future states that Asia Pacific is estimated to dominate the organic virgin coconut oil market, holding the lion’s share of more than 90 percent.

How some countries are taking advantage

India produces about 16 billion coconuts a year for domestic use alone, according to the FAO; and more than US$1billion worth of coconuts are exported from the Philippines annually to the US – yet production growth is 8 percent behind demand growth.

The coconut industry is the highest net foreign exchange earner of agricultural exports in the Philippines, accounting for about 1.5% of GNP. It employs, directly or indirectly, some 20 million people – about one-third of the population – and earns more than US$510m annually, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research states.

Indonesia tops the world with 183 million tonnes of coconut production annually. They are followed by the Philippines with 153 million; India 119 million; Brazil 2.8 million; and Sri Lanka 2.5 million.

The case of Ghana

Coconuts can be successfully cultivated in the coastal and forest regions of the country.

Indeed, according to Mr. Kwaku Boateng-CEO of Green Coast Group Consult, coconut farming is second only to cocoa production in Ghana.

‘’Nothing stands in the way of coconut since it is useful from leaves to roots. All part of the coconut is very useful – especially in soap manufacturing, cooking oil production, and adding to nutrients of the soil for agricultural purposes.’’

However, Ghana sits 15th on the list of world major coconut producing countries, with annual production of 366,000 tonnes. Apart from the coconuts sold on streets to quench one’s thirst on a hot afternoon, there are other uses Ghanaians are putting coconuts to.

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Unfortunately, though, Ghana has no accurate data on the industry to help analyse its worth to the economy.

However, there are many small businesses producing many products from coconuts – such as oil, soap, toffees and biscuits, carpets, mats, and even renewable energy.

One of the players is Rudis Essentials, a startup that uses coconut to produce cosmetics. The company’s CEO, Rubaba Sule-Braimah, told B&FT that the major constraint that has stifled growth of using coconut to produce cosmetics in the country is inadequate finance.

Adowarim Lugu-Zuri – CEO Wazuri, also a startup that uses coconut husks to produce mats – said her biggest challenge is the mindset of Ghanaians about locally produced products.

She said many after realising that her products are produced locally begin to doubt their quality, even though they may have expressed interest initially when they were not told they are locally made.

Amin Sulley Abubakar, CEO Zaacoal – another startup using coconut husks to produce renewable energy – stated that difficulty in accessing cheap credit to finance his business has also prevented him from expanding, even though there is high demand for his products. He believes that Ghana is missing out on the enormous potential that this fruit holds.

The various players in the industry are calling on government to give them attention and address some of the problems they are confronted with, if the economy is to make the best gains from the coconut industry as some others are doing.

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