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Experts see potential of coconuts in Hainan

By Chen Bowen in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-18 08:52
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Experts and officials gathered on China's tropical island province of Hainan recently to discuss the tremendous market potential of coconuts and their related products, an industry that was valued at $20.2 billion last year, according to a report by Grand View Research.

Prak David, secretary of state of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was impressed by the coconut treats laid out for guests at the 2023 China (Hainan) International Coconut Industry Forum in Wenchang.

The secretary of state compared what was offered to similar sweets made traditionally in his own tropical nation.

Like in Hainan, Cambodians love coconuts and have many local recipes. Its national dish — amok — is often cooked with coconut milk and served in a coconut, he said.

"The forum is a great platform and opportunity for relevant institutions and businesses to talk, share and find solutions and perspectives to develop the coconut industry," said David during an interview on the sidelines of the forum, which started on Tuesday and ran until Thursday.

He said that although coconuts in Cambodia used to be planted only on a small scale mainly for local consumption, now with improved cultivation techniques and international investment, the coconut industry in Cambodia is emerging.

The Chinese and Cambodian governments signed a protocol on Sept 15 under which fresh coconuts from Cambodia will be imported to China.

The Chinese mainland market consumes about 2.5 billion coconuts per year, while the country can produce about 200 million annually.

The world's second-largest woody oil crop after oil palm, coconuts are cultivated in over 120 countries and regions. The global coconut cultivation area spans approximately 12 million hectares, with an annual production of 56.3 billion coconuts, according to Ma Yuhong, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

With a commodity trade value of around $38.7 billion, coconuts contribute significantly to the economies of tropical regions, particularly developing countries with tropical climates and tropical islands.

Hainan is the only province in China where coconut trees can be grown on a large scale. It has cultivated the crop for more than 2,000 years. The coconut plantation area in the province is about 37,900 hectares, accounting for 99 percent of China's total.

The coconut processing industry in Hainan has an annual output value of 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion), with over 260 coconut products developed. It has already formed an industrial chain integrating research, cultivation, processing, trade and cultural tourism, which aims to achieve a total output value of 23 billion yuan for the coconut industry by 2025, according to the 14th Five-Year Plan for the High-quality Development of the Hainan Coconut Industry issued in 2021.

"The coconut industry in Hainan is developing very quickly. They have more than four coconut varieties, including red, yellow, brown and green, with different flavors and sweets," said Mumtaz Ali Saand, an expert from Pakistan working with the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences, a coconut research institute.

The province is developing its links with countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia, to improve innovation and value chains. With scientific and technological cooperation and economic and trade exchanges.

"I believe Hainan's coconut industry can meet the quality and quantity of the global market's needs," he said.

The byproducts of coconuts have huge potential, said David.

"Coconut water is a refreshing drink, and people can eat the flesh. But it also has medical use and cosmetic purposes. Its root is used in Cambodian traditional medicines to tackle diarrhea and its oil is often used for hair and scalp enhancement," he explained.

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