Figure 1: Julius Moat Kokonas Indastri Koporesen’s Coconut Breeder assists in sorting out nuts for sun drying before actual heat drying.

The coconut industry is on the verge of a resurgence following a series of trainings. A current two-week coconut training program conducted by the Kokonas Indastri Koperesen or KIK at the Research Stewart Station at Murnas Madang is a proof to that. The first leg of the training ran from the 19th to the 24th of October, involving participants from Manus, New Ireland, East New Britain, West New Britain, Milne Bay, Central, East Sepik and Madang representing their respective KIK’s establishment and collaborating agencies.

            Guest of honour, East New Britain deputy governor, Cosmas Bauk officially opened the training with a strong message – one that sets the tone for the industry’s front liners to revive the industry, with emphasis on leading by example.The coconut industry is never dead, as alleged by critics, Bauk said. “I still believe that there is still something in the coconut industry. You (participants) are not here by mistake. You are here for the resurgence of the coconut (industry).” He said coconut was the catalyst for Papua New Guinea’s independence however very little consideration is given to that fact and the industry’s recovery and growth at large.

Trainer Byron Yawogi demonstrating how to pre heat charcoal ovens for ‘white copra’ drying.
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Trainer Byron Yawogi demonstrating how to pre heat charcoal ovens for ‘white copra’ drying.

The prospect is still there for copra and other high value coconut products to generate millions (of kina) for Papua New Guinea, he said alluding to the many research documentation filed by KIK and its partner organizations both within and abroad on coconut product diversification. “You put a price tag on it and you’ll be amazed at the real value of coconut,” said Bauk. KIK’s business arm, Coconut Resources General Manager, Uron Salum highly acknowledged Bauk’s passion and drive to see East New Britain maintains its reputation as the leading copra producer in PNG, prompting other provinces to harness the full potential of the industry. In response to the ENB deputy governor’s concerns over an almost defunct Coconut Act 2002, Salum noted that the document is under review thus issues about license regulation, and local farmer and producer ownership, are too often given little emphasis by key industry players and regulators.

Nonetheless Salum is optimistic of the outcome of the training and encourages trainee officers to grasp as much as they could to contribute to the industry’s restoration as an active contributor to the national purse. Reinventing the wheels of a once thriving industry, he shares in the general aspiration of a more formal and quality oriented coconut industry. “Let’s get the farmers to a more formal status where a much smaller farm can produce more than a big farm. We have highly trained officers here who can make a difference,” said Salum. Madang Department of Agriculture & Livestock Director, Godfrey Savi acknowledged a decline in the coconut industry. However he assured the KIK and participants of the training of the province’s support.

“We have the land mass, population and volume. Yet when it comes to production, we are nowhere near competing. But I want to assure KIK of the province’s support.” So far, the trainees have been taken through research and development concerns, copra quality improvement training which comprises copra drying principle, drying methods, and practical at dryer sites.

A trainee adding empty coconut shells to the dryer.
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A trainee adding empty coconut shells to the dryer.

Further, the training educates participants on basic plant protection, replanting and intercropping. Apart from visiting field sites such as the international gene bank and piloted coconut disease sanitation sites, the visiting trainees travelled to Bogia over the weekend to catch a glimpse of what the industry is like outside of Madang. They were also informed of the origin of the dreaded Bogia Coconut Syndrome in Bogia’s Nubia Plantation.

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