22 Nov 2023

Win-win for Fiji ice cream maker and women of Rabi

11:12 am on 22 November 2023
Marama Niu coconut ice cream on supermarket shelf. 19 November 2023

Marama Niu coconut ice cream on supermarket shelf. 19 November 2023 Photo: Facebook.com/Marama Niu

A Fiji ice cream maker and the women of Rabi Island have established the perfect relationship.

The women on the island, which is home to many families of Banabans transplanted there three generations ago, have long made coconut nectar or kamaimai, but never for commercial purposes.

During the Covid border shutdown Kylie Patterson of Marama Niu was searching for a local source of coconut nectar and with the help of PHAMA Plus was connected with the women of Rabi.

Patterson said her ice cream business is now growing quickly and she hopes eventually to tap into the export market.

She said coconut nectar is an ideal substitute for refined sugar and many other plant based sweeteners.

"It's very nutritious," she said, adding "a lot more nutritious than honey."

"It has about 17 different nutrient profiles, amino acids etc, but it also has a very low glycaemic index of 35.

"It is one of the lowest, probably the second lowest in comparison to agave, for a natural plant based sweetener. Only 35 - honey ranges through 50 to 60."

Initially Patterson was importing coconut nectar from Tuvalu but as the pandemic restrictions were applied this become impossible.

She said with the help of Phama Plus she was put in touch with the women of Rabi and discovered a product to anything she had tried before.

PHAMA Plus is the Pacific Horticultural and Market Access Programme, funded by the aid programmes of Australia and New Zealand.

The organisation is helping Marama Niu to enhance the quality of coconut nectar and standardise its production, all of which is expected to bring benefits for the farmers in Rabi.