The Federated States of Micronesia is seeking to resuscitate the nation’s dormant coconut export industry by tapping local families and farmers to be at the frontline of production.
“We can be one of the best coconut products producers regionally and internationally right here from our paradise in our backyard,” President Panuelo said last week at the launch of the Coconut National Export Strategy, or CocoNES.
The CocoNES, Panuelo said, will serve as the master plan for a "successful design and implementation" of the coconut export strategy that will translate into sustainable jobs, a reliable source of income and food security for FSM families.
“A successful export strategy will result in sustainable supply chains that will bring our very own coconut products from local farmers out to the world,” Panuelo said.
“Within this value chain, from producers to finished products, we will encourage greater participation in the agriculture sector and hopefully engage our citizens abroad to take interest and return home and participate,” the president said.
The overall operations will be managed by Vital FSM Petroleum Corp., serving as the CocoNES Secretariat.
“The main idea for the average citizen to take away from all of this is that the FSM wants to encourage local families and farmers to grow and sell whole coconuts to Vital,” Panuelo said.
“These whole coconuts will then be processed by our local workers into healthy value-added products that will be competitive both in the domestic and international markets,” he added.
Coconut products manufactured in FSM include hair and body oil, soap, shampoo, suntan lotion, cooking oil, coconut jam and coco cones.
According to a 2018 report posted on the Coconut Community website,
copra production in FSM began declining in the early 1990s.
"During the last five years, the production has dropped from 700 tons to about 115 tons in 2005," reads the report written by Catalino Sam, chairman of the now-defunct FSM Coconut Development Authority.
Sam attributed the drop in copra production to massive damage caused by typhoon Sudal as well as the cash relief received by residents through emergency grant programs.
"In the FSM, it has also been a practice that copra production slows down when cash income is available through other means," Sam stated in the report. "As a result of the drop in production, copra was not exported in the year 2005 until now due to the insufficient quantity for an export shipment."
After more than two decades of dwindling copra production, FSM began revisiting the forlorn coconut industry in recent years.
In June 2014, the 18th FSM Congress enacted the "Coconut Tree Act," which dissolved the FSM Coconut Development Authority and transferred its functions and operations to Vital FSM Petroleum Corp.
The rehabilitation of the FSM's coconut industry received a new push following a review of Vital’s Coconut for Life (C4L) Project in January last year.
“I said in January 2020 that we look to Vital as the entity within the FSM that can really transform and catapult us into a new level of development, strengthening food security, energy security and lessening income inequality, among other areas,” Panuelo said.
In the village of Tonoas in Chuuk, Vital is developing the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility, a component of its C4L, which aims to produce about one million gallons of coconut oil for export annually.
“Vital continues to have the complete and total confidence and support of the Panuelo-George administration, and I call upon all citizens of the FSM who are interested in building back better to work with Vital and the FSM national government as we jointly work together to develop and export coconut products," he added.