A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands
This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.
The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.
SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).
PAPGREN coordination and support
Mr William Wigmore
Mr Adelino S. Lorens
Dr Lois Englberger
Mr Apisai Ucuboi
Dr Maurice Wong
Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
Mr Frederick Muller
Mr Herman Francisco
Ms Rosa Kambuou
Ms Laisene Samuelu
Mr Jimi Saelea
Mr Tony Jansen
Mr Finao Pole
Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
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Sunday, December 04, 2005
Posted 7:39 PM by Luigi
Two Pacific Coconut Success Stories
From Pacific Magazine.
Coconut Crazy Vanuatu Firm Revolutionizes Copra Processing
By Tiffany Carroll
A South African family is vowing to turn Vanuatu's coconut industry around with a revolutionary oil-extracting machine that would see the end of copra cutters in the archipelago.
Mark Bowker of Vanuatu Virgin Coconut Oil (VVCO) says the machine, designed by his grandfather, will be able to extract five tons of virgin coconut oil a day, something that would normally take at least six days. He says it will also result in consistently higher quality oil.
"Current copra drying methods are neither hygienic nor quality controlled, meaning the buyer cannot be assured of the grade of oil every time," he says.
The Bowker oil extraction process is totally mechanized and self-sufficient. The stainless steel machine is capable of processing large quantities of coconuts mechanically, as opposed to the current practice of cutting and digging out the meat by hand.
Virgin coconut oil is a lucrative commodity, with a market value hovering between $US8,500 and $US16,000 a ton. VVCO is offering six vatu per whole nut to coconut producers, averaging 30,000 vatu (US$268) per ton.
"That's way above market price and involves very little work for the farmer," Bowker says.
VVCO's product is destined for the health, beauty and pharmaceutical markets. The oil is extracted within one hour of the fresh nut being cut, eliminating the risk of bacteria developing during the handling process and reducing the quality of the oil. Whilst there are several virgin coconut oil businesses around the Pacific, most are producing less than 100 liters of oil a day.
"The process by which VVCO produces virgin coconut oil is not done anywhere else in the world and the fact the technology is patented worldwide means this will be good for Vanuatu as nobody can copy or replicate this process globally," Bowker says.
Bowker says Vanuatu's coconut industry is in urgent need of help and VVCO is committed to opening new export markets. "The (Vanuatu) farmer is already questioning his future in cutting and providing copra due to the high running costs. Some farmers are already changing their focus and looking for other options opposed to replanting a new generation of coconut trees."
Bowker is confident of producing an initial 2.5 tons of oil every eight hours. Vanuatu Virgin Coconut Oil eventually hopes to rely on just a few major plantation owners to supply coconuts. A large percentage of outer islanders are employed as copra cutters in Vanuatu. Many work for the larger plantations that VVCO is hoping will become suppliers of nuts.
If the Bowker process is successful, those workers could be out of jobs since there would be no need to crack the nuts and strip out the meat. However, the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority, the government body that approves all foreign investment in the country, is behind the Bowker's $A1.3 million (US$987,285) venture, giving approval for the business to operate and assisting with import tax breaks for the company.
"I hope farmers will see the future the way we do, and we'll all do well," Bowker says.
Fill It Up With Coconut Oil? Marshalls Firm Substitutes Coconut Oil For Diesel
By Giff Johnson
Most Pacific Islanders live on islands whose most noticeable product is coconuts, but there has been only sporadic interest in or energy spent on developing coconut fuel as a viable alternative.
In the Marshall Islands the situation has changed dramatically since late last year. Following experiments over the last three years with Tobolar Copra Processing Plant vehicles using coconut oil as a substitute for diesel fuel, Pacific International Inc.-the country's largest construction firm-is fueling its fleet of heavy equipment and its ocean-going vessels with cheaper and cleaner coconut oil.
"The questions, 'can you use coconut oil as a substitute for diesel' and 'what will it do to the engine?' were not easily answered," says PII owner Jerry Kramer about efforts to begin using coconut oil fuel in the 1990s.University of Hawaii studies indicated that use of coconut oil in diesel engines would deteriorate rubber hoses, clog filters, reduce the power of the engine and lead to excessive carbon build up, Kramer adds. The main drawback to using coconut oil is that the oil absorbs and holds moisture, and at temperatures below 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it hardens. But in the Marshall Islands it never gets below 78 degrees, so the only question that needed answering was about moisture and residue left in engines.
Kramer, whose company manages the copra processing plant for the government, simply started operating a vehicle on coconut fuel and after three years, "we opened up the engine and it was perfect," he says. "There was no carbon build up, the fuel lines were clear and the tank was clean."
For the past year, PII has been fueling all its diesel vehicles and ships with coconut oil. "Two of our loaders use coconut oil," he said. "There's no problems, no black smoke. It burns clean and smells sweet."
PII's two tugboats and the Deborah K cargo vessel are all running on coconut oil fuel. Now a number of other local vehicles are doing the coconut oil routine. The copra processing plant sells coconut oil at about $2 a gallon-a far cry from the $3.70 a gallon diesel customers were paying in early October.
The simplicity of the way unrefined coconut oil works in diesel engines immediately suggested to Kramer the opportunity for its use on remote outer islands in the Marshalls. He sees two good options: one is a five-kilowatt home unit diesel generator; another is for a larger 30 KW generator that powers a unit that produces coconut oil while providing additional electricity for community use.
He's developing this as a pilot plant for outer islands to produce coconut oil to fuel home-sized generators. A five KW generator run from coconut oil can support appliances such as a rice cooker, washing machine and TV-compared to most of the donated solar units going into outer islands that are big enough to power only one or two light bulbs.
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