Indonesia has the world's largest area of Coconut plantation. Major Coconut producing areas include Riau province and North Celebes, which host some of the biggest Coconut processing facilities in the world. However, significant portions of these plantations are past its peak productive age.
Older coconut trees produce less fruits and are very tall to climb during harvesting.
Coconut trees are considered past its prime-age when they are above 30 years of age. When this happens, farmers begin to encounter several problems such as lower yields per harvest period and overly tall coconut trees. When a plantation reaches past its peak productive age, farmers will obtain less yields in their quarterly harvests. This is exactly the case in Eastern Indonesian islands like Halmahera, where most trees were planted more than 20 years ago. Furthermore, old trees also means that they are extremely tall. Tall coconut trees are more hazardous to climb up for harvest and are more time consuming.
As a result, harvests are becoming more costly and less productive. Coupled with mostly processing lower-value products like black copra, coconut farmers are experiencing harsh economic circumstances in these areas.
"Stakeholders in the coconut industry need to take actions to
improve the social and economic wellbeing of farmers."
Plantations that are no longer productive need to be cut down and replaced with new superior coconut varieties. Institutions like The Palm Research Center (Balit Palma) in Manado has been able to produce hybrid varieties of coconuts which are more resistant to diseases, start to be productive at only 3 years of age and are relatively short in height.
Replantation programs should provide farmers with superior coconut seedlings and the knowledge of how to maximize crop productivity. The seeds also require proper certifications from the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure the variety authenticity. With proper spacing, farmers can plant the seedling in between older trees and only chop them down when the younger trees have started to become productive.
Seedlings need to be certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
The availability of superior Hybrid coconut varieties to farmers will improve their overall output. Firstly, well maintained seedlings can start bearing fruits at as early as 3 years of age. This can speed up the replantation efforts since farmers do not invest too much time and labour to care for young seedlings. Secondly, hybrid varieties produce more coconuts per tree. While local tall-variety coconut trees can produce approximately 100 fruits per tree annually, hybrid varieties can produce up to more than 200 fruits per tree. Finally, hybrid varieties do not grow very tall in height, making them easily workable for farmers. Climbing up the trees during harvests is one of the most labour intensive part of coconut processing, short hybrid trees will enable farmers to work more efficiently. In summary, new Hybrid coconut varieties are crucial for farmers to keep up with the current coconut industry.
Young hybrid coconut trees, fruiting at an early age and with very short heights.
The global demand for coconut products is growing rapidly both in the F&B and cosmetics industry. Its market size was valued at $11.5 billion in 2018 and is expected to have further growth of more than 13% from 2019-2026. This is fueled by rising preferences for vegan diets and plant-based alternatives.
Therefore, major coconut producing areas such as Halmahera Island need to improve their cultivation methods and productivity to meet the global demand. Governmental institutions and also private companies as stakeholders in the industry need to collaborate together to offer Replantation Programs to smallholders in rural communities.