Coconut and Cocoa Research Institute New Britain
In September 2005, Kokonut Pacific Pty Ltd of Canberra, Australia, was commissioned to install a Direct Micro Expelling (DME) unit at the Cocoa and Coconut Institute (CCI) station at Tavilo via Keravat, Rabaul (Kokoporo) East New Britain. The key objective was to demonstrate the potential of this farm-level process for the production of pure virgin coconut oil (VCO). CCI sees the future of the coconut industry as being not in copra but in a Downstream Processing Model. This approach to revitalising the industry comes from the Industry Service Division, CCI Madang, under the leadership of Paul Tumen - Acting Executive Manager. This CCI branch is to be the new centre for CCI's coconut tree research. Paul is strongly supported by an excellent team headed by Geno Genolamar (Madang) and Peter Nguna (Keravat).
A 7 x 8 m shed had been built in preparation for the CCI Tavilo installation. “Training the Trainers” started with the construction of the thermal drier which is a key component of this all-weather process. During the ten days of training the participants worked through all the production processes. More than 30 skilled Agricultural Extension Officers took part and they will follow up the downstream processing model at farm level. The next installation and training will be undertaken by CCI Staff at Madang.
The downstream processing principal focuses on developing the local market for coconut products. The strategy is working on the theory that, as the demand grows, this will encourage the replanting of many senile plantations. Eventually export products will follow. CCI has chosen to focus on the home market to avoid the wild fluctuations of the world export markets that led to so many of the problems of the copra industry.
DME virgin coconut oil is a pure natural and stable final product with a long shelf life. Its free fatty acids levels are as low as 0.1%. Given the freight difficulties in remote areas, localised production of final products should be viable in many situations. In addition, areas in PNG that do not grow coconuts (such as the Highlands and Port Moresby) will be able to buy this locally produced VCO that has huge nutritional and health benefits. Coconut oil is a superior cooking oil, massage and baby oil; makes excellent soaps and, significantly, it is a natural biofuel. All these products offset expensive and often inferior imports.
The downstream processing model has already started by teaching farmers the processing of husks into doormats, rope and coir; coconut shells into charcoal and briquettes; the residue meal after oil extraction into cooking ingredients, de-fatted desiccated coconut, chicken pellets and other animal foods; and coconut water can be made into nata de coco, a popular refreshing drink, vinegar and sauces. Coconut wood furniture is another real possibility as replanting gets underway - as can be seen in Fiji.