Dear Editor – Readers to your newspaper will know I have long been keen to highlight and promote the production and export of coconut virgin oil by Solomon Islanders, both by community based farmers and by larger commercial concerns operating in the country.
My support for the export of coconut virgin oil from the Solomon Islands was boosted Thursday, when Radio New Zealand International (RNZI) had the following to say in its early morning news bulletin.
“More doors are opening for Pacific farmers with the use of coconut oil now a growing trend in health and beauty markets world-wide.
Blue Coconut Oil, who source all their product from Melanesia is one of the only pacific coconut oil products currently being sold on New Zealand supermarket shelves.
The rest are mostly imports from Asia.
The owner, New Zealander John Drew says his growing business has helped put back into the communities he’s worked with and he’s proud to have partnered with the Pacific.”
It is true that every coin has two sides and that announcement having been made, RNZI then followed up with more discouraging news about what we have come to know as the ‘Tree of Life’ throughout the Pacific and in the Indian-Sub Continent.
“An Australian company which works with coconut farmers in Solomon Islands says climate change is affecting crops, but right now they are faced with bigger problems.
Experts say the Pacific region’s coconuts are under threat from rising sea levels, and unpredictable weather patterns as a result of climate change.
But Kokonut Pacific’s managing director Richard Etherington said a renewed infestation of rhinoceros beetle was killing large palms and was an immediate serious threat to farmers.
“I’m conscious that there is coastal erosion, there are coconuts planted very close to the sea on the back of beaches. There’s probably more immediate challenges, there is an outbreak of the rhinoceros beetle”
Richard Etherington said the beetle burrows into the trees and was able to take out large crops quickly.
He said to deal with the effects of climate change farmers could always plant palms further inland.”
The startling news got me thinking as to how the threat from the rhinoceros beetle could be tackled, but also how the pest found its way to the Solomon Islands. Perhaps, Mr Etherington could explain these concerns to us.
From a quick bit of research I did myself, I discovered that the coconut rhinoceros beetle is a pest species occurring throughout many tropical regions of the world. Adults can cause extensive damage to economically important wild and plantation palms, particularly prevalent in the Philippines.
I also learned that eradicating the beetle was proving difficulty in several countries where the rhinoceros beetle was causing much damage to coconut trees, especially in Hawaii because (quote) ‘the beetle is really tough, and most of the pesticides that are legal for use in Hawaii do not work on it.’ (A statement made by Darcy Oishi of the state Agricultural Department).
It is very much my hope that the rhinoceros beetle invasion can be brought under control and the pest eradicated completely and very soon.
I am more familiar with English Oak and Ash trees from my heritage than Pacific coconut trees and I guess some who might read this article when looking at the post on my website might wonder why I referred to the coconut palm as the ‘Tree of Life.’
Perhaps, if I end with yet another quote from a Wellness publication, the answer might easily be found.
“Coconuts provide a nutritious source of food, juice, milk, and oil that has fed and nourished people around the world for generations. On many islands, coconuts are a staple in the diet and provides the majority of the food. Nearly one-third of the world’s population depends on coconuts to some degree for their food and their economy. Among these cultures, coconuts have a long and respected history. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Coconuts are classified as a “functional food” because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Wherever the coconut palm grows, the people have learned of its importance as an effective medicine.
Coconuts are the fruit of the coconut palm, botanically known as cocos nucifera, with nucifera meaning “nut-bearing.” The fruit-bearing palms are native to Malaysia, Polynesia and southern Asia, and are now also common in South America, India, the Pacific Islands, Hawaii and Florida. The light, fibrous husk allowed it to easily drift on the oceans to other areas to spread. In Sanskrit, the coconut palm is known as “tree which gives all that is necessary for living,” since nearly all parts of the tree can be used in some manner or another. The coconut itself has many culinary uses, including providing milk, meat, sugar and oil as well as functioning as its own dish and cup. The husk was also burned for fuel by natives, but today a seed fibre called coir is taken from the husk and used to make brushes, mats, fishnets, and rope. Coconut oil, a saturated fat made from dried coconut meat, is used for commercial frying and in candies and margarines, as well as in non-edible products such as soaps and cosmetics.
Although it takes up to a year for coconuts to mature, the trees bloom up to thirteen times a year, so fruit is constantly forming yielding a continuous harvest year-round. An average harvest from one tree runs about 60 coconuts, with some trees yielding three times that amount. The coconut’s name is a bit of a misnomer, since it is botanically classified as a drupe and not a nut. It is the largest seed known.
The nutritional composition and related health benefits of coconut changes as it grows. This change in composition is being studied by scientists in many places. But scholars knew many centuries ago that coconut has different properties at different stages of its life.”