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Steady as it goes for importing organic coconuts

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2017-03-01  Views: 19
Core Tip: Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the imported organic coconut market.
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the imported organic coconut market. “The supply of organic coconuts is consistent with what it’s been for the past few years,” says Mayra Velazquez de Leon of San Diego, Ca.-based Organics Unlimited. “Changes in supply are always slow with coconuts, mainly because a tall coconut palm can produce up to 75 coconuts a year.” And, she adds, it takes a minimum of six to ten years for a young tree to produce its first fruit with peak production from these trees happening once they’re between 15-20 years old.

For now, all of Organics’ coconuts are brought in from Colima, Mexico. “We’ve looked at sourcing from other regions, but so far haven’t found a good, reliable, quality source of organic coconuts from anywhere else,” Velazquez de Leon says. She notes that while Organics sells mature, brown coconuts, there are coconuts on the market brought in from Thailand. “And they’re young coconuts that need to have a sealant applied prior to shipping to preserve freshness,” she says.

Prices also hold

Also staying relatively constant are the prices on organic coconuts. “Prices are very steady from last year, and they’re similar to the pricing of conventionally grown coconuts,” says Velazquez de Leon. “Most of our customers work on a contract basis with us and are also purchasing our organic bananas so they do get first priority when supplies are low, particularly in the winter.”

That said, Velazquez de Leon thinks things are about to change. “We’re anticipating that supplies will start to increase shortly, as will demand,” she says. “Usually demand increases as we move into warmer weather in the US. Our summer sales of organic coconuts are usually about 30 per cent higher than they are in the winter.” In addition, she notes that demand continues to build with increasing interest from consumers in fresh coconuts, coconut water and coconut meat.

Weather affects things differently
And while that’s good news, growing organic coconuts has its challenges. “Because there’s such a long lead time from planting a coconut palm to any significant production and the lack of other organic coconut growers, adding to our supply is difficult, even though the demand exists,” says Velazquez de Leon. In addition, weather issues for coconuts also put a different kind of pressure on growers. “For organic coconuts, the rainy season is a problem because of harvesting issues. Coconuts can only be harvested by climbing tall coconut palms to cut the fruit, and this can’t be done when the palms are wet from the rain,” she says. “And in our area of Mexico we do have significant rains, so this does slow the harvesting process for us during certain times of the year.”

Add to that some transportation challenges for Organics Unlimited. “Because these coconuts are a secondary crop for us, transportation is one of our biggest challenges,” Velazquez de Leon says. “We don’t normally ship full loads of coconuts, so when the product comes from the farms, it needs to be in combined shipments with our organic bananas. And with the increases in transportation costs from Mexico, this also adds to the cost of bringing coconuts to the US.”

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