"..a bardy view!"

Coconut Water – 1100 good reasons to think about…..

Rihanna051111 Coconut water is taking off in a big way, especially since major celebrities have discovered it's isotonic benefits.

Indeed Madonna recently invested $1.5m into Vita Coco – one of the big players in this market – and has even hired Rihanna to be the company's global face.

Both Coca Cola and Pepsi have invested considerably in the drink, which they see as the new wonder tonic for today's lifestyles.

Whilst it's true it has some commendable properties  – most natural products do – some of the claims are widely excessive, from a remedy for hangovers to curing cancer.

Coconut water can only come from young coconut (known as buko in the Philippines), and not to be confused with coconut milk, which develops as the nut ages. I can personally vouch for it's refreshing qualities as I have often sipped the nectar in moderation because imbibed in excess it becomes not only a diuretic but also a laxative (so best keep the Imodium on standby). I wonder if this could account for Rihanna's gyratory dance routines?

Yet, this is not simply a manufactured drink with flavourings and carbonated water that can be easily produced in a factory. It is a natural product that needs a tree, which in turn requires land.

Before anyone can say "well, surely the same argument can be addressed to orange juice", my answer is no it can't, because an orange is an orange like a mango is a mango. A coconut however needs to grow through various stages, and each stage is an important development in its cycle – hence the phrase "the tree of life".

But it's horses for courses and although there are no evident environmental signs that plantations designated for young coconut alone can be detrimental, it seems like a terrible waste of a fruit.

Young coconut husk is difficult to dispose of and not easily biodegradable. The husk is rendered useless, copra cannot be produced, coir (a valuable fertilizer) cannot be garnered, and the very tender almost translucent meat cannot be dessicated or made into oil. It also has limited export potential. Indeed, the young coconut, bar it's frugal water content, is really good for nothing. Tourists love them of course, and beach hotels and bars offer them as the ultimate tropical drink for their sun-soaked visitors. The novelty being that they actually drink from the nut.

It requires 10,000 nuts for 2,000 litres of coconut water or 5 nuts for one litre. That's alot of wastage. Yet it's also a lot of profit for companies owning their own plantations (Pepsi for example) or those who have invested in the plant and machinery, or just the middle men and marketeers – but how are the small independent growers fairing, and are they paid a decent price for their nuts? Now that's a question I never thought I would ask!

None of the big three mentioned above are endorsing their products as fair trade or even organic. In the UK a litre carton of coconut water is retailing for £2.99 – one wonders how much of that is returned to the primary source?

The above figures equate to £0.60p or $0.97c per nut – lets say a dollar. In the Philippines 40% of the population are struggling to live on that every day.

Although I'm not involved in this business, I can sell a young coconut straight from the tree for 5 pesos (£0.07p) – by the time it was juiced, packaged, transported and retailed to the UK it would have been marked up 1100%.

I suspect that many small producers are being paid much less (by volume), because the big boys apply leverage and purchasing power, just like the supermarkets do in their own dealings with farmers and growers regardless of crop.

Is it any wonder then that plantation after plantation from India to Brazil are growing young coconuts on an industrial scale and only for their water?

Anyway, next time any of you have a sip of the stirring stuff, think about the nut who grew the nut. One of them might have been me!


May 22, 2011 - Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, The Philippines, United Kingdom | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. As always a great and enchanting read. Personally, can’t bear the stuff and never have been able to. No wonder I’m not a celebrity then and just a plain old nut?


    Comment by Spook Moor | May 23, 2011 | Reply

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