Communities on West Ambrym are now producing virgin coconut oil and white copra as the premium copra price is VT75,000 per ton.
The villagers are fortunate to get the assistance from Andrew Kevu, a virgin coconut oil and white copra expert.
Mr Kevu started the popular ‘Bela Trading Vanuatu company’ in 2014 producing mainly virgin coconut oil.
He was involved in a lot of tradeshows in Port Vila in the past years, winning prizes during the shows and has represented Vanuatu in regional trade fairs and regional meetings in regards to coconut and coconut by-products.
“Ambrym island is one of the first islands that has commenced to produce virgin coconut oil using the manual system including ‘Malekula Oil’ from Malekula island.
“Unfortunately, we are left out in receiving assistance from the government through the Ministry of Trade in terms of improved facilities to produce virgin coconut oil.
“Maybe our contribution towards producing virgin coconut oil is not considered by the government,” Mr Kevu commented.
The Pacific Pride Limited located in Santo, is a copra purchasing company that is currently purchasing white copra from coconut farmers through agents located in the islands that have high production of coconuts.
The company has assisted lead coconut farmers on West Ambrym in establishing appropriate facilities for hot air copra and white copra.
“Most farmers are moving out from virgin coconut oil to producing white copra because of the lucrative price offered by Pacific Pride Limited which is VT 75,000 per ton,” the virgin coconut oil and white copra expert said.
“My involvement with the community and with my proficiency in white copra, we are currently producing white copra.
“Although we have insufficient fund I managed to organize community awareness and teaching interested local farmers the process of producing white copra.
“Farmers on West Ambrym are currently taking the lead in producing white copra to ensure they earn an income.
“The standard procedure of producing white copra is having proper facilities such as a solar tent, a concrete slab to work on and the process of selecting nuts until drying up of copra.
“Producing good quality white copra re sunshine therefore when the weather is not favourable of drying copra, we use special hot air drier before sun drying of copra.
“While we have Pacific Pride and we have the money sitting here in the communities, the appropriate authority should assist one way or the other.
“We need solar tents to dry up copra to assist farmers.
“I have established my own facilities at my own costs when I decided to invest in white copra.
“I invited farmers who are interested to produce white copra teaching them how to produce a good quality product and monitoring their work to ensure the quality of white copra is maintained before purchasing by buyers.
“How can the government assist rural farmers through projects like the EDF11?
“The farmers I am working with will gradually shift from hot air or smoked copra to white copra but they lack the facilities and materials to produce the product.
“Producing white copra without proper facilities in place means spending more time at home because of weather changes.
“The future of white copra looks bright as the premium white copra price of VT75,000 per ton is not part of the government subsidy and the price will always be there.
“This message was confirmed by Pacific Pride company during their awareness on West Ambrym.”