26 Mar 2018

Samoans celebrate expansion of coconut oil exports

6:56 am on 26 March 2018

The future of Samoa's copra industry is getting a further boost after a new joint venture was signed this month with Dr Bronner's.

Healthy or Hoax

Healthy or Hoax Photo: 123rf.com

The US multinational soap company's founder Emanuel Bronner is a third generation master soapmaker from a German-Jewish soapmaking family who used the labels on his organic soaps to spread messages of unity.

And 3000 litres of Samoa's premium coconut oil looks set to be delivered annually to the US mainland to make their soaps to service both US and European markets.

The Americans held meetings with a range of coconut oil businesses, but in the end Fanene Sefo's was picked.

Managing director Fanene Sefo said there's much excitement about the venture under the new brand SerendiCoco Samoa.

"The coconut industry has been in decline for many years. But now coconut seems to have been taken on as a product. It has become a lot more high profile and there's a much bigger demand for coconut which is good," Fanene Sefo said.

He said copra farmers could expect to be paid close to $US600 (1500 tala) per tonne under the deal.

Their farmers, both on Upolu and Savaii, are all certified as organic and fairtrade.

"It is good for the whole industry, especially the farmers at the grassroots level and we are also embarking on coconut replanting as a lot of trees are getting old and we have to make sure there is a sustainable source of coconuts and copra going forward."

One of those who will benefit is Samoa Coconut Cluster's Edwin Tamasese.

Samoa Coconut Cluster

Samoa Coconut Cluster Photo: Samoa Coconut Cluster

He had formed the cluster group along with three other businesses to become a collective because farmers were being paid a pittance prior.

He said eventually they would like to pay farmers up to 1 tala 50 per coconut.

Edwin Tamasese said he initially got into the coconut industry three years ago, as he could see its potential was untapped.

"Because we had a lot of old plantations here that were put in during the 1800s so we have got hundreds and hundreds of acres of coconuts. We have got probably like two million coconuts every year that just go to waste and weren't utilised," he said.

"Then you have got this high value market in coconut oil that was becoming all the rage so good opportunity to utilise all this land that was pretty much dormant."

Eventually he said they wanted to be able to pay farmers up to 1 tala 50 (or around 50 US cents) per coconut.

And despite coconut oil being given a bad wrap by some, he advised all consumers to do their own research.

"I think the thing is that the product is quite a testament to itself and there's enough out there that people realise the people behind these studies are big commercial growers like the American Heart Foundation is funded by canola oil and corn oil and all these companies with commercial interests."

Mailelani Samoa is a family-owned business that sells skincare products made locally out of organic Samoa coconut oil.

Mailelani Samoa

Mailelani Samoa Photo: Mailelani Samoa

Owner Sylvie Salanoa said that Samoa's coconut oil is such a sought after product because of its clear, thin consistency, and that it is easily absorbed.

"It does make a difference on the skin especially if you have dry skin or itchy skin, eczema. It makes a real difference. Most of all if you live in the tropics where it is humid. It protects your skin."

Fanene Sefo said Pacific Oil could do more in the future.

"We have been very fortunate that we have had this joint venture and we have gotten to know them over the last few years and this is a family oriented operation who cares about the environment and we will stick together as a team," he said.

The first shipment is due to leave for the states at the end of March.