Article / September 24, 2020

Get Ready for Coconut from Colombia

Keep an eye out for coconut from Colombia – it could be coming to a supermarket near you. With access to Atlantic and Pacific sea ports, ideal climatic conditions, and rich genetic resources, Colombia’s coconut production is poised to spike in the coming years. Now, the government is laying the foundation for coconut exports on a larger scale. 

Colombia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Juan Valencia Gonzales, recently met with officials from the International Coconut Community, an organization under the banner of the United Nations that promotes and organizes coconut exports and exporters across the globe. 

Colombian officials at the ICC headquarters in Jakarta. 

Potential membership in the ICC would be a major step forward for Colombia’s coconut industry, which has been limited in terms of exports by a relatively low planted area, despite excellent climate conditions and logistical access. ICC membership would propel Colombia’s coconut exports, making the country a major player in the global coconut industry. 

Coconut in Colombia

Planted area of coconut in Colombia exceeded 22,000 hectares in 2019, and production was clocked at 145 thousand tons. Although these numbers pale in comparison to those boasted by major exporters like Indonesia or Sri Lanka, the ICC hopes that with support in terms of cultivation and commercialization, Colombia will be able to enter important import markets like the US.

The Colombian coconut sector by area, production, and yield (rendimiento), 2005-2011

Colombian officials seem to agree. “With the ICC we will be able to form a strong alliance that without a doubt will lead us to a well-developed coconut supply chain in Colombia,” said Juan Gonzalo Botero, Viceminister of Agriculture. The Ministry of Agriculture, along with support organizations such as Agrosavia, have been highly active in promoting coconut among growers and encouraging the expansion of the industry. 

Membership in the ICC would have huge benefits for Colombia. The organization provides support in terms of quality standards and cultivation practices, which can help increase productivity and competitiveness in international markets. The organization also assists with value-added production, technology, and resource deployment. 

The ICC is formed by 20 countries which collectively make up over 90% of the world’s coconut production, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Formed in 1969 and under the direction of the UN, the organization is dedicated to reducing trade barriers, increasing cooperation, and raising awareness of the positive social and health implications of coconut. 

Indonesia and the Philippines dominate coconut production. However, there is room for new origins. 

Coconut On The Rise

Globally speaking, coconut is quickly establishing itself as a preferred product amongst health-conscious consumers. Generally consumed in some kind of processed form like water, milk, or oil, coconut is also a key ingredient in numerous health and beauty products, from diet pills to shampoo to lotion.

With well-established import markets in China and India, coconut has made significant inroads into high-value regions like Europe and the US. Coconut imports amounted to just under half a billion dollars in 2016, and the global coconut market is expected to rise at a CAGR of 9.5% over the next five years. 

Global import and export value of coconuts. The market exploded in the early 2000’s.

One key component of coconut’s success has been the surge in sales of processed coconut products, especially water. Sales of coconut water have risen dramatically in recent years as consumers trend away from highly sweetened, unhealthy beverages like sodas. Coconut water, which is also high in electrolytes and antioxidants, has also gained popularity as a natural replacement for sugary, chemical-laden sports drinks. 

Virtually unknown before 2004, coconut water is now a high-value product. 

Coconut oil, as well, has been a major success as a value-added product. Used for everything from sunblock to cooking oil to skincare, coconut oil has seen widespread success in Europe, and is making inroads into the United States as well. Touted for its medicinal abilities, coconut oil is credited with everything from fat-burning to immune support to inflammation reduction.  

The growth of global coconut markets is propelled by the trend of rising health awareness amongst consumers, together with the rise of the middle class in emerging markets and the improvement of coconut supply chains. Look for coconut and coconut products to become a common fixture on grocery store shelves in the US and elsewhere. 

New Origins for Coconut

In terms of exports, there has been significant growth from new producers in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Vietnam, Mexico, and the Ivory Coast have all increased their export volumes in recent years, responding to the rapid rise in demand from China, the US, and Europe. 

Colombia is perfectly situated to supply the world with fresh, high-quality coconuts. It’s access to shipping lanes for Europe, the US, and Asia make it an ideal candidate for large-scale exports, and the climate conditions along the country’s vast tropical coast are excellent for coconut production. Look for Colombian coconut to make a strong entrance to international markets in the near future.

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