"..a bardy view!"

The Philippines – Keep off my Buko – Vita Coco!


"I'm not a mathematical genius, but I know about coconuts, and I know that the average young coconut holds less than a litre of water – but let's suppose, for argument sake it actually does hold a litre."

The Coconut Market Information Center (CMIC) states that Vita Coco "the US best-selling coconut juice brand" has partnered with the Philippines company AgriNurture Inc (ANI) to build a new coconut juice production facility in Camarines Sur.

This $5m facility will have an eventual output capacity of 36 million litres of juice each year. Notice the change in definition – not water but juice.

The fact is it is coconut water (buko juice – from young coconuts) and no addition of other fruit in the package will disguise the fact that this is mainly pure coconut water.

The production facility is due for completion in May this year, on a two hectare site in Barangay San Jose.

I'm not a mathematical genius, but I know about coconuts, and I know that the average young coconut holds less than a litre of water – but let's suppose, for argument sake it actually does hold a litre.

That means 36 million young coconuts will be sacrificed in their prime. With a 40 day growth period (nine harvests per year), means that each harvest must yield 4 million nuts. With two hectares each must produce 2 million nuts.

One hectare, with healthy coconut palms should have no more than three hundred trees – otherwise they will be suffocated, and each would be fighting each other for space.  The canopy which the palms create are valuable to other plants which live in harmony with them – bananas for example.

Then there is the husk which is a valuable compost for the land – there is no husk from a young coconut – it is bled dry. The young flesh within will not be marketed – it will be squeezed for it's last drop of moisture. Perhaps a mulch will result for recycling, but for what purpose and where and how will it be used?

Even with three hundred trees, each one per harvest if purely used for young coconuts will not produce more than 30 prime nuts. 30 nuts times 300 trees equals 9000.  Multiplied this by 9 (number of harvests in a year) and this equals 81,000. With two hectares this at best will be 162,000 young coconuts annually. That's rather far from the 36 million which will be required.

Indeed, it won't be 2 hectares needed for this production but an astonishing 222 hectares. That's close to one square mile or 24 million square feet or 548 acres. In perspective that's two chunks of land the size of Central Park in Manhattan.

So the plan is to build three more coconut water processing facilities (ie "plantations") in the Visayas and Mindanao regions by 2013 "to meet the growing American demand" says AgriNurture CEO Antonio Tiu "each one with a capacity of 36 million liters of processed coconut water."

Well, the arithmetic says that this is going to require much more than eight or ten hectares. More likely 1000 – nearly 4 square miles. Just how much land is available in the Philippines to satisfy this demand? Because it's not just about land, it's about logistics, infrastructure and machinery.  It's about livelihoods, ecology and conservation.It's not a feasible investment for the long term, it satisfies a western consumer need or desire, at the expense of the environment.

As I have often remarked, a coconut needs seven years to grow, to nurture, to develop because it has so many uses in it's life cycle. Constantly cherry picking it's youth will have a very detrimental effect in the long term. When the fad disappears, when the celebrities like Madonna and Rihanna and sports stars have made their millions out of product endorsement, and when the whole thing goes belly up, when the land is used and abused and has nothing left to give, when the multi-nationals have gone elsewhere, then all that is left is sorrow and despair.

When will the Philippines learn that their land is a precious gift that they need to nurture, care for, love and enhance? A natural resource to be used for the benefit of her people and not to be sold out for a fast buck?

Where are the intelligent advisers? Where are the experts? The Philippines is selling it's soul for a misguided belief that coconut water is the panacea to their economic problems. It's not – when the money is made, what will be left? When will the land be reclaimed? Who will be left to pick up the pieces? To re-plant, re-farm, recover?

My heart bleeds – but it bleeds for the young coconut that had such a brief moment under the sun. Perhaps that is a metaphor – for the young Filipinos who also reach out for sunlight, but find their idiotic, naive and corrupt politicians selling them and their country's heritage down the Pasig river.



March 24, 2012 - Posted by | Coconut Trees, Conservation, Culture, Education, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. You are quite correct. I have personally seen this type of greed and lack of forethought and planning destroy some very vibrant communities and in some cases, whole countries. Don’t these pop stars have enough money of their own? Perchance they should stick to singing instead? Even there, I’m not sure they know much about that either.


    Comment by Spook Moor | March 25, 2012 | Reply

  2. I hope and pray that the Philippines will take care of its farmers, and that the farmers will be smart to not allow foreign business interests to exploit the national resources.
    The Philippines should have national certification for their coconuts, and have national branding. The southeast asian countries are the largest producers of coconuts in the world. Marketing efforts should be aggressive so that people in the world know this. So far, I’m seeing that the face of coconuts is an african american, and I’m hearing that coconuts come from Brazil and the Caribbean, and I know that the Philippines and Indonesia lead the world in coconut production. PR needs to be swift, aggessive, and executed well. I hope we see a beautifully marketed Philippine brand soon.
    Take control. Take care.


    Comment by markuva | March 15, 2013 | Reply

  3. Thank you for your intelligent analysis Markuva, you have made some interesting points, and I agree about the national certification and branding.


    Comment by Bar De Ness | March 20, 2013 | Reply

  4. Hello Bar De Ness,
    I’m a French journalist. And I want to do a report about coconut water business. I’m verry interested by your article. Could you please give me your email at this adress:
    I would like to ask you some questions about that.
    Thank you very much.
    Best regards


    Comment by Eléna | October 21, 2013 | Reply

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