The Trade Expo Solomon Islands Committee last week began a series of visitation to local producers as part of the committee’s preparation for this year’s Trade Expo.
Mid this week the chairman of the local organizing Committee, Redley Raramo met with the Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands Management team at their home at Lungga and having listened to the presentations said Coconut has the potential to become the country’s major driver of our economy.
Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands is a locally owned company that produces highest quality Certified Organic, cold present, pure and natural, raw and unrefined oil.
Speaking on behalf of the Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands, Wilson Kikolo said their vision is to help rural people.
“We encourage downstream processing and maximizing the usage of the coconut plant,” Kikolo said.
“Currently we are producing crude coconut oil”.
Kikolo also revealed that besides crude oil, KPSI also produced Lamp oils, soaps and oil for cooking stove.
“Our ambition is to replace vegetable cooking oil with coconut cooking oil. Coconut cooking oil can become a prospective export product once given the right support and backing by the government,” Kikolo added.
Currently, Kikolo said KPSI is the main supplier of bath soaps and hand soaps to Kitano Mendana Hotel, one of the country’s largest hotels.
Meanwhile, Joana Cooney, an Australian working with KPSI highlighted some of the big challenges KPSI faced and includes quality products, labeling, packaging, marketing and promotions.
“We are working on improving these areas and desperately need government support,” Cooney said.
“There is massive potential for the coconut industry to flourish here and people are enthusiastic but need to be supported,” Cooney added.
Kikolo said everyone in the rural areas can become equal participants in the coconut industry because coconut is everywhere, adding that coconut is resilience, regardless of whatever disaster and it’s the oldest tree around you.
Kokonut Pacific Solomon Islands currently certified farmers spread across the country and are registered with them under the DME Extra virgin Coconut Oil.
“We set strict conditions on their coconut plantations through to downstream processing.
“Everything is organic and KPSI spent a substantial amount of money every year to ensure everyone conforms to international standards.”
The farmers operate oil crushing machines that produce oil which they sell to KPSI for export.
“The farmers engage in productive business activity and their activity involves processing of raw coconut products into oil that generate foreign revenue for Solomon Islands and also poured cash into the rural areas of Solomon Islands”.
Asked how much has trickled down into the rural areas they involved in over the past years, Kikolo confirmed:
“In 2012 $3.8m has actually trickle down to the rural areas through the revenues generated by farmers and directly benefited many people.
“In 2013 the amount increased to $5.5m and it is estimated that this amount will increase to around $7m this year”.
Since the majority of Solomon Islanders are rural dwellers, the positive contribution of such small holders business cannot be overlooked.
Their engagement and performance in productive sectors is remarkable and need recognition by the government.
Raramo said he is pleased with KPSI’s vision to maximise the usage of coconut and allow rural equal participation.
“I’m pleased to learn of KPSI’s vigorous approach to maximizing the usage of coconut, a commodity that is accustomed to the people of this country.
“Coconut has been around and has benefited a lot of rural people. It’s the oldest commodity and unarguably copra is the oldest trade in this country’s history”.
Raramo added that coconut is a plant that can be produced into so many different products.
“From the roots to the tip of the fronds, coconut can provide so many different products”.
The aim of the visitation according to the Chairman is to inform local businesses about the 2014 Trade Expo, present the committee’s overview of this year’s Trade Expo, connect with the private sector community, listen to different challenges, identify some opportunities for the local producers and at the same time promote successful stories.
“It is time that government reaches out to our local producers and listens to their voices.
“Their voices must be heard. They have contributed significantly to the economy of this country, therefore must be given some incentives to encourage them and keep their businesses running,” Raramo stressed.
He pointed out that his committee is committed to carry potential innovative products beyond the Trade Expo.
“A technical taskforce will be established after the Trade Expo to work on product development, marketing strategies, get needed budget support, promote and market these products. Our vision is beyond the Trade Expo 2014 exhibitions”.