“Orange juice for breakfast is over,” an investor interested in creating large, fair trade coconut plantations recently joked to me. These days, coconut water is king.
For the trendy and the wealthy, including celebrities such as Rihanna, Madonna or Matthew McConaughey, rarest coconut water extracted from the aromatic varieties of the nut, is the “it” drink and even a source of income.
Coconut water is being sold by luxury brands, at up to US$7 for 33 cl, about the same price as basic champagne.
A booming market
There is no doubt that the coconut market is exploding. Coconut water currently represents an annual turnover of US$2 billion. It is expected to reach US$4 billion in the next five years.
In 2007, a 25% stake in Vitacoco, the largest brand for coconut water, was sold for US$7 million to Verlinvestcompany. Seven years later, another 25% stake in Vitacoco was again sold to Red Bull China for about US$166 million.
But there’s another side to the story. The coconut is one of 35 food crops listed in Annex 1 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and considered crucial to global food security. In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organizationestimated global production to be 61.5 million tonnes.
It is an important livelihood crop for more than 11 million farmers, most of whom are smallholders, cultivating coconut palms on around 12 million hectares of land in at least 94 countries worldwide. The coconut palm is popularly known as the “Tree of Life” – all its parts are useful.
The main products are copra – the dried inner meat of the nut, used for oil – and the husk, which provides a vital source of fibre. More recently, as we’ve seen, there is a
Over millennia, humans have slowly selected and maintained numerous coconut varieties, used for many purposes.
This has resulted in an extraordinary morphological diversity, which is expressed in the range of colors, shapes and sizes of the fruits. But the extent of this diversity is largely unknown at the global level. The huge amount of work that has gone into coconut breeding by farmers over millennia, and by scientists during the 20th century, remains greatly under-valued.