A new supply deal for Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) has been signed between Copra Millers (Fiji), Savusavu and New Zealand company Cocavo Limited.
The two-year deal is worth several hundred thousand dollars for regular shipments of VCO to Cocavo, a privately-owned business based in Whangarei.
Pacific Trade Invest Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong, who assisted the two companies, was pleased with the successful negotiations and the two-year supply contract.
“PTI is pleased to have assisted in this important step in further developing the coconut oil industry in Fiji which benefits both coconut farmers and the Fijian economy,” Mr Furlong said.
The new product called Cocavo is a blend of cold pressed extra virgin coconut and avocado oil. Packaged in eye-catching super bright tubs the coconut/avocado oil blend comes in five different flavours from Original or Light in 1kg tubs; Chilli and Lime; Turmeric and Lemon zest and Coriander, Lime and Ginger in 400g tubs. The product claims to have lower saturated fats than regular coconut oil whilst maintaining all the benefits of coconut and avocado oil.
It is a new direction for Copra Millers (Fiji), Fiji’s second largest producer of crude coconut oil made from copra. The company was established in October 1983. The Board recently commissioned a feasibility study into VCO and found consumer demand was there for high quality VCO, prepared to pay higher prices for VCO in cooking or used for beauty products.
Speaking to Pacific Periscope Acting General Manager John Deo said the initial plan was to start on a small scale and grow. But a fruitful meeting with Cocavo in September 2016 saw them open a new VCO production factory in Savusavu in late January.
But they were new to VCO and experienced teething problems. Having worked through the quality issues their latest batch of coconut oil samples ticked the strict quality standards. The deal with Cocavo was signed and sealed in June with a review this year.
With new machinery installed in the factory, Copra Millers plans to increase its production from 5000 litres monthly to weekly by July.
The company focused on quality assurance and control and achieved HCCP certification in April. The factory is fully compliant, maintaining critical control over its processes, Mr Deo said. They use only fresh coconuts, processing and hygiene to ensure the highest standards are continued to be met.
About 80,000 fresh whole coconuts will be required to meet VCO demand needed by Cocavo. This will involve around 500 villages from three provinces including youth and women’s groups. Although more than 100,000 people are involved in the coconut industry either directly or indirectly their biggest issue is labour sustainability as many villagers have moved away to urban areas. Some of the once thriving coconut plantations were overgrown and idle, Mr Deo said.
However, there is strong support from everyone. The Fiji Government has made a commitment to the industry by providing free coconut seedlings as incentive to farmers to keep planting and they have also implemented a minimum copra price for VCO. With this incentive, more locals could be encouraged to return Mr Deo said.
Cocavo expert Chris Nathan believes his new method of VCO processing could transform the lives and economies of many Pacific Islands. The machinery can extract thousands of litres of VCO in hours. Copra Millers Mr Deo confirms the process is faster and frees up farmers time.
Mr Nathan initially developed machinery for an American company to produce avocado oil. In association with those counterparts Mr Nathan created an entirely new machine for cold pressing coconut oil in big volumes. The strong interest and potential demand from customers and stores throughout America meant the company needed to dramatically increase their supplies of VCO.
They are keen to form a joint venture with Copra Millers (Fiji) and build a major “super plant” in Fiji by July 2018 and are currently seeking a $3million+ investment from investor(s). However, Mr Nathan said they had looked at other locations further afield, but they would prefer to stay close to home and preserve the intellectual property of their new technology.
For more information, please contact PTI Trade Development Manager Ian Furlong on firstname.lastname@example.org