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

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Wednesday, August 23, 2006

    Putting life back into coconuts

    CIDA has big plans to revive the industry in Fiji

    By Dionisia Tabureguci, Island Business

    After being pushed to the edge of oblivion and almost falling over, Fiji’s coconut industry is ready for a comeback.

    And those who are moulding the cast for this revival are doing so with big plans in mind, a sympathetic ear for critics but with a forceful resolve that the industry, far from being a sunset one, is on its way to a brighter future.

    The steam that is left, it seems, is about new opportunities, a total makeover by shifting the focus to propel the industry away from traditional copra production to one where coconut farmers are involved in value-added products, more specifically health foods and cosmetics.

    The outfit behind this revival is the industry regulator, CIDA (Coconut Industry Development Authority), an entity set up in 1998 to regulate and bring back to life what by then had become a faded economic icon.

    CIDA’s chief executive officer John Teiawa, not often one to call for media attention on the affairs of the entity, was nevertheless a little more accommodative when approached by FIJI ISLANDS BUSINESS to discuss the direction, if there was such a thing, of Fiji’s coconut industry.

    A week before the approach, FIJI ISLANDS BUSINESS had been told by a former politician and long-time coconut planter Leo Smith, that the coco-peat factory project mooted by him and endorsed by CIDA late last year had been shelved “for reasons that are not clear to us”.

    Smith had called on CIDA to get off what he called “its civil service mentality” and start doing something about the industry.

    If nothing was done quickly, he feared for the survival of what had once been the cornerstone of the economy and hundreds of small farmers in the outer islands who send their children to school from copra money.

    Having been in the coconut business since he was a child, Smith was familiar and still experiences first hand the gradual decline of the coconut industry. And he says one big worry is the decision by a growing number of plantation owners in Vanua Levu, an area that supplies most of the country’s copra, to either diversify into other crops or worse, subdivide their properties and sell them off. Chances are the new owners “don’t give a damn about coconuts”.

    What follows is a significant drop in production when the trees are cut down to make way for property development.

    “It’s a sunset industry if nothing is done about it,” Smith predicts. His prognosis on this dim future is based on his argument that CIDA is not doing enough or moving fast enough to turn anything around.

    He himself had been a victim of this ‘inaction’ when he took his proposal to CIDA for a Fiji-first cocopeat factory. Based on a “whole nut” philosophy, the plan required that CIDA gather whole nuts from farmers for 10 or 15 cents a nut, sell the husks to Smith and his Australian/Sri Lankan partners (cocopeat is a form of organic fertiliser derived from coconut husk fibre), then re-sell the nuts for both domestic consumption and copra production.

    “After a series of meetings with them (CIDA), we are still waiting for them to get back to us,” Smith says.

    But seen against the laid out plans of CIDA, Smith’s proposal may be honourable and logical but not up to the mathematics of the regulatory authority.

    Teiawa argues that Smith’s plan “just won’t work” because of the logistic and financial constraints CIDA already faces and will face when gathering coconuts simply to sell back to Smith and his outfit for two cents a nut.

    It would heavily tax an entity already burdened by lack of funds and resources. But that is not to say that nothing has been done, Teiawa argues.

    On CIDA’s estimate that some 100,000 people—mostly in the rural areas—still depend on income derived from the copra industry, it would be unfair to say that nothing has been done.

    On CIDA’s estimate that some 100,000 people—mostly in the rural areas—still depend on income derived from the copra industry, it would be unfair to say that nothing has been done.

    A more reasonable way of looking at the coconut industry would be to look at the challenges pitched against it, which makes any effort to advance its interest equivalent to moving about in a pool of glue.

    At field level, according to CIDA, the greatest threat is the depleting coconut plantation as real estate booms in Vanua Levu, making it more attractive for plantation owners to sell their land rather than do something about the coconuts.

    When in the 1950s coconut was a thriving industry capable of producing over 40,000 tonnes of copra a year, estate owners were responsible for the production of up to 60 percent of that figure, Teiawa points out. Now, we are lucky if we can do 20,000 tonnes a year and in fact, after Cyclone Ami in 2003, CIDA’s Copra Millers of Fiji (sole producer of copra and coconut oil, the two main coconut products) recorded a depressed output of just 9000 tonnes of copra at the end of that year. Out of the figures of production nowadays, smallholder farmers are the ones who are producing the most.

    Another weighty challenge is the lack of coordination between Fiji’s agriculture ministry and CIDA, which makes it difficult to ascertain the number of coconut trees on the ground, their age, their production and whether the owners are serious about planting coconut for commercial purposes. And if they are, do they follow proper crop husbandry practices?

    This challenge was partly overcome last year when all coconut-related matters handled by the ministry were officially handed over to CIDA. CIDA is now in the process of putting in place two enabling arms to help charter its course—a farm extension division to gather all relevant field information and a research and development arm to help realise the new goals set in regards to developing value-added products.

    At field level therefore, CIDA’s retraced steps into the coconut groves now involves the careful documentation of farmers, the type of planting that they do, the areas taken up by coconut palms as well as a comprehensive replanting programme to supply seed-nuts to these farms.

    Another infamous challenge faced by this industry is the decline in the prices of copra and coconut oil, an adversity now worsened by the rise in freight costs brought on by the global fuel price hike.

    Needless to say, this has lent credence to critics who call copra production a “sunset industry” on account of farmers moving away from it due to low returns.

    To CIDA, however, the industry is a long way away from its last breath. Indeed copra may not be the most attractive commodity right now. But the plan, in its entirety, is to shift away from that very notion that coconut planting in Fiji is all about producing copra and coconut oil.

    “The industry has a vision, although it will take a while to achieve it,” says Teiawa.

    “Our vision is to reinstate the coconut industry as one big business in the country and I can assure you we will all live long enough to see the fruit of that vision.”

    This optimism has its roots in the entity’s grand design. First, the CIDA of 2005 is really a reformed entity, quite unlike its 1998 self in terms of size, structure and defined goals.

    Second and more importantly, global developments in coconut-based commodities have already made a U-turn into newer products like virgin oil and coconut timber and these are two commodities that a greater part of CIDA’s plan now revolves around.

    Virgin coconut oil, in particular, is something of a fetish for health food lovers in more developed countries and CIDA hopes to construct a comprehensive infrastructure in place to link itself and its registered coconut farmers in time for both to ride on the bandwagon of this development and reap similar benefits countries like Philippines and Sri Lanka are already gaining from this craze.

    Virgin coconut oil, sold at retail outlets for about A$12 per 300-gram bottle, has also been put forward by some authorities as a natural wonder-drug, with a wide range of capabilities that include the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and skin protection among a host of others.

    This, says Teiawa, makes virgin oil an attractive alternative right now and should be reason enough for farmers to want to get back into coconut planting.

    For those that do, CIDA aims to equip them with portable virgin coconut oil mills so that they produce the oil without having to go far.

    “Farmers will husk the coconuts and they will end up having access to water, husk and shell. Copra Millers will eventually have no copra (its fate is yet to be decided) and CIDA will instead go to these small mills and take all the shells, water, oil and husks and then we will do the downstream processing with them and our own marketing.” Teiawa explains.

    “In the end, we want to change copra trading into whole nut trading where people will talk about the industry in terms of whole nuts. Once we have the small mills established, it would then be the right time for people like Leo Smith and the kind of venture that he is proposing, to come in because the infrastructure would have been in place already. Right now, it is premature and too costly.”



    • Coconut area - 60,000 ha or 6 million trees, 10% hybrids (1990s), the rest - Fiji Talls. 2/3 of trees become unproductive in 20 years, average yield of trees 20 - 25 nuts per tree per year.
    • Pre-Ami production - 15,000 mt (2002), highest copra production over past 10 years - 17,000 mt in 1998. Production in 2003 - 9,506 mt, 2004 10,763 mt and 2005 - 12,058, 11% up. Forecast for 2006 -14,000 mt.
    • Annual foreign exchange earnings from CNO exports over last 5 years - $6m to $15m per year.
    • 100,000 plus people depend partly or wholly on copra forlivelihood, average income lowest in the country (estimated less than $500 per household per year).
    • Current CNO world market price volatile and now hovering below US$600 pmt. Trend expected to continue for the rest of the year.
    • Local millgate price $500 F1, $450 F2, Govt support price $500 pmt.
    • Two CNO mills (Ocean Soaps & Copra Millers) under capacity, milling costs high.
    • Bulk of CNO is exported, about 30% used locally for food and cosmetics.
    • Small holder producers supply 80% copra, plantation owners 20% - a complete reversal in the supply trend.


    • Industry based on single export - oil from copra.
    • Distance from market (high freight), small volume (unattractive to shippers), declining productivity, volatile market, poor husbandry.
    • Lack long- term policy for: Planting/replanting based on coconut based farming system; product diversification; market promotion of products
    • Lack structure conducive to commercial production of all parts of the whole nut
    • Lack focus in support services for production, processing and marketing

    * Comments:

    Post a Comment


    October 2002

    November 2002

    December 2002

    January 2003

    February 2003

    March 2003

    April 2003

    May 2003

    June 2003

    July 2003

    August 2003

    September 2003

    October 2003

    November 2003

    December 2003

    January 2004

    February 2004

    March 2004

    April 2004

    May 2004

    June 2004

    July 2004

    August 2004

    September 2004

    October 2004

    November 2004

    December 2004

    January 2005

    February 2005

    March 2005

    April 2005

    May 2005

    June 2005

    July 2005

    August 2005

    September 2005

    October 2005

    November 2005

    December 2005

    January 2006

    February 2006

    March 2006

    April 2006

    May 2006

    June 2006

    July 2006

    August 2006

    September 2006

    October 2006

    November 2006

    December 2006

    January 2007

    February 2007

    March 2007

    April 2007

    May 2007

    June 2007

    July 2007

    August 2007

    September 2007

    October 2007

    November 2007

    December 2007

    January 2008

    February 2008

    March 2008

    April 2008

    May 2008

    June 2008

    July 2008

    August 2008

    September 2008

    October 2008

    November 2008

    December 2008

    January 2009

    February 2009

    March 2009

    April 2009

    May 2009

    June 2009

    July 2009

    August 2009

    September 2009

    October 2009

    November 2009

    January 2010

    RSS Feed
    Alternative feed
    Contact Tevita


    Something new:

    Agrobiodiversity Weblog: For discussions of conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of crops, livestock and their wild relatives.  

    PestNet: For on-line information, advice and pest identification for the Pacific and beyond. Contact: Grahame Jackson.



    Pacific Mapper: For on-line mapping of point data over satellite images of the Pacific provided by Google Maps.



    DIVA-GIS: For free, easy-to-use software for the spatial analysis of biodiversity data.


    Locations of visitors to this page