Monday, July 25, 2022


(Cocos nucifera) in Malaysia are an important crop grown since long time ago. It is time for the local coconut industry to shine and having been overshadowed by oil palm for decades as claimed by industry observers. This is being driven by declining palm oil prices in long years ago and rising demand for coconut-derived products. But there are many challenges. For one, local coconuts cannot compete with imports in terms of price and scale. According to news reports earlier in this year 2020 in which the local coconut suppliers were calling for the government to regulate the import of coconuts. In their view whereby the influx of cheap coconuts from countries such as  Indonesia and Thailand was currently hampering their businesses. The lack of competitiveness and perceived insufficient supply is due to many farmers choosing to plant the more lucrative oil palm instead of coconut trees. For me the coconuts are Malaysia’s fourth largest industrial crop behind oil palm, rubber and rice with most of the large plantations found in Sabah and Sarawak. According to a report by the  Department of Agriculture Malaysia (DOA) that the country is among the top 10 coconut producers in the world although production fell between 2014 and 2016. Total acreage of coconut plantations had fallen from about 120,000ha in 2005 to 85,000ha recently. Meanwhile for the palm oil acreage and prices rose from 2006 to 2012 and recently from 2021 - 2022.  Prices went on a general downward trend (except for a spike in 2017) due to oversupply and weak demand from top buying nations. From the report recently, prices were impacted by the EU’s decision to avoid palm oil due to concerns of forest clearing and environmental degradation directly linked to oil palm cultivation. This had serious consequences as the region was the world’s second largest importer of palm oil. The declining palm oil prices have caused smallholders to suffer a lot, especially those who only have 1ha to 2ha of land. This article in "Anim Agriculture Technology" I share hoe the revival of coconut industry in Malaysia should be.

On the other hand in Malaysia coconuts are becoming popular as prices have gone up. It is an emerging industry and the demand is growing because 10 to 20 years ago in which they are mainly used the crop to produce coconut oil. Today in addition to virgin coconut oil (VCO) it is used to produce fresh coconut milk and drinks also powder coconut. The current supply of coconuts is unable to meet local demand. According to DOA official for the calculations data in which 100 million to 220 million coconuts need to be imported annually especially during festive seasons from Indonesia through Batu Pahat ports mainly. For me the problem with the coconut industry at this moment is that the farmers are still using the old variety known as Malayan Tall (this variety registered code are CN1). But the production yield is not that good recorded about 6,000 - 8,000 nuts per/ha annually. Most coconut tree are senile planted from Agricultural Input Diversification and Rehabilitation Scheme (AIDRS) by DOA in 1970's to late 1980's. The Malayan Tall also takes a long time to grow and its height makes it difficult to harvest. Meanwhile a better varieties of coconut seedlings already exist in the market. These are developed by the Department of Agriculture. Companies such as United Plantations Bhd have their own variety Matag in which farmers able to grow under DOA planting programme or they can buy from certified seedling producers. The Matag Pure Seedling price increased from RM6.50 in middle 1980's to RM55.00 in 2019 and lately as high as RM90 in 2022.

From my observation Malaysia also have the local potential coconut variety known asa Malayan Yellow Dwarf (MYD - variety code CN5), Malayan Red Dwarf (MRD - variety code CN4) and Pandan (variety code - CN6). The plants are smaller and shorter so they are easier to harvest. From my many observation the yield is very high for 272 plants per hectare of planting density. When the plants are smaller farmers able to grow more trees in an area. My study shown that 
these varieties were not taken up because farmers were more interested in growing palm oil for all time. There are not many farmers were interested in promoting these varieties even though that everyone is starting to see potential in the coconut industry in Malaysia. This varieties can be a new source of wealth because they can double the income of farmers if they venture accordingly. However, the seedlings of the new hybrid variety such as Matag Variety are currently insufficient for all the coconut farmers in the country. They are also more expensive than traditional varieties in which may be a challenge because most of the smallholders have limited budgets. The Malayan Yellow Dwarf and Malayan Red Dwarf are about RM 6.00  to RM10 per seedling while the Matag can go up to RM70 - RM90 because of the high demand. The three varieties produce a similar number of nuts per tree, but the Matag variety has thicker flesh in which is good for coconut oil, virgin coconut oil and coconut milk also for isotonic drinking. It is not easy to produce hybrid coconut seedlings. Someone has to climb the tree and induce pollination to get the required variety. In Malaysia there are not many with this skill belongs to UP and Department of Agriculture Coconut Station. Possibilities to import some seedlings of other good varieties are in progress by DOA. The government allocated RM50 million of its budget in every year from 2016 to help farmers purchase seedlings and replant. The money was also aimed at helping farmers improve the maintenance of their plantations and use fertilisers to increase productivity. Many years farmers did not bother to use fertiliser because they were not aware of its importance. Some just waited for the mature coconuts to fall before collecting them. DOA reported that before the nut production is very low. With the old CN1 (Malayan Tall) variety most farmers able to get 15,000 nuts per hectare if they use fertiliser. If not than they can only get 6,000 to 7,000 nuts per hectare per year. This initiative by the DOA and the government encourages farmers to use fertiliser and adopt agronomic practices or proper farm management. Good farm management practices are especially important today as the trees are facing threats from pests such as the rhinoceros beetle and red palm weevil. The red palm weevil is actually from the Middle East and could have come when people brought in date palms for ornamental purposes. It is quite devastating. The whole plant collapse because the weevil will eat the inside of the tree trunk. The Department of Agriculture is monitoring this very closely and under control by 2018. There are a lot of improvement of coconut industries in Malaysia since RMK 11 implementation. Thanks...
M Anem,
(July 2022).

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