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Description | Overview | History | Types of coconutCoconut producing countries | Indian coconut  market | Major trading centers

Coconut is the large hard fruit of the coconut palm tree, brown in color, which has husk like fiber surrounding a large seed. The fruit is known by the name of Cocos nucifera botanically. Unlike the name suggests, coconut is actually a fibrous drupe and not a nut. The inner seed has coconut meat inside it that is consumed as an important ingredient in various cuisines of the world. The fluid in the seed is drunk throughout the world as it is considered to be a healthy drink. As a matter of fact, coconut is the largest seed known.

The coconut palm tree belongs to the palm family of Arecaceae and is the only tree under the genus Cocos. The tree grows to a height of around 30 meters and has feather shaped leaves. The coconut palm is multipurpose tree like many other palm trees as every part of the tree is used in vast number of products.


Coconut is the one of the fruits that has a high economic value. This is because of the fact that the fruit as well as the tree, both have a numerous uses. Several other products are derived from the coconut palm and they too are used in many applications. Copra is used to extract coconut oil and coconut meal in the ratio 3:2. The products like hair oils, soaps, shampoos and medicines require coconut oil as an important ingredient. Also the fruit is quite popular in a vast number of cuisines. It is so much attached to the emotions of the people in the Southeast Asia that it forms a part of the mythology and culture in here and is also considered auspicious in various ceremonies. That is the reason that coconut tree is ranked among one of the 10 most useful trees of the world and is often termed as the “tree of life”.

The world production of coconut currently is around 55 million tons, Indonesia having the highest production figures accounting up to around 30% in world figures. The nut is cultivated on around 26 million acres of land throughout the world in more than 90 countries of the world. The production of coconuts has increased significantly during the last decade with the increase in the world demand. The world consumption figure in context of coconut oil is around 3.8 million tons.

World trade in coconut complex is limited as most of the produce is consumed at the place of its production. The countries that have demand supply mismatch usually indulge in the trade of the fruit. The exports of coconuts fluctuates depending upon these factors and hovers around 1800000 tons per year. The major exporters of coconut complex to the rest of the world are

  • Indonesia

  • Philippines

  • Sri Lanka


Coconut has a long and varied history due to a fact that coconuts can float on water. This fact helped these fruits to disperse easily and spread throughout the world. The exact origin of coconut is subject to controversy, as some historians believe that the coconut palm came into existence in regions of Southeast Asia and some believe that it originated in the southern American region. The oldest fossils of coconut had been recovered from Indian states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra and some other fossils from New Zealand dating back to around 15 million years ago. With the help of oceans and humans who knew their value early on, like the Polynesians who are considered to have played a great role in human dispersion of the fruit, coconut got spread in the tropical regions of the world. The seeds of the fruit are able to germinate even after being in water for 3 to 4 months and that was the reason that it got spread much before it was domesticated.

Coconut became popular throughout the world and at some areas it was the only source of food and water. In Southeast Asia, it became a part of life and culture and also gained significance in their mythology. Indian writings as old as more than 2000 years include information about coconut. With time, more and more uses of coconut palm and their fruits were developed. In the end, the coconut was brought to the western African and the Caribbean region by the European intruders in the 16th century.

Cultivation pattern

Coconut palm is a tropical plantation that requires hot and humid climate to prosper. It is very good tolerant of salinity in the water and soil and that is why it is generally found in the coastal areas. The soil type that is appropriate for the production of the coconut palm is the sandy soil type. Also, consistent rainfall and ample sunlight are also the key factors for the effective growth of the coconut palm. The creation of plantation is considered to be difficult to establish and the propagation of the trees is done with the help of its seeds. The palm takes a long time to get mature i.e. the flowers of the tree may appear within two to seven years of the germination.

After 8 years, the tree starts to produce the fruits and it is harvested according to the purpose for which it is has to be used. If the nut is needed for its water, it is allowed to ripen for just 5 to 6 months and then it is harvested. If copra is required from the coconut, 8 to 10 months old fruits are harvested. For the dry copra, the coconut is allowed to ripen fully for 10-12 months and then harvested. The fruits are harvested in bunches manually by the tree climbers. Also the mature fruits that fall off from the trees are also gathered.

Types of coconut

Coconut fruit is categorized into two basic categories according to their palms trees
  1. Tall variety – Tall variety of coconut is a slow growing variety. The tree produces the fruit 6 to 10 years after plantation, which is comparatively late as compared to the other variety. The tree remains productive even at the age of 80 to 120 years and produces good quality of copra, oil and other products. The fruits of the palm get mature in 12 months duration.

  2. Dwarf variety - The fruits from the dwarf or short variety of trees are fast growing variety i.e. the tree starts to produce fruits in 4 to 5 years. This coconut palm has a relatively short productive age. The fruit may be of variable colors such as yellow, red, green and orange.

Coconut producing countries

Coconut is a popular plantation and is grown in more than 90 countries of the world. Though, it is quite hard to establish a coconut plantation but once it is done, it proves to be quite beneficial as the coconuts are harvested throughout the year. The world production of coconut sums up to around 55 million tons annually. Indonesia and Philippines are the major countries that produce the maximum coconut fruits in the world. The leading producers of the crop in the year 2005 with their production figures are mentioned in the list below
  • Indonesia (16300000 metric tons)
  • Philippines (14500000 metric tons)
  • India (9500000 metric tons)
  • Brazil (3033830 metric tons)
  • Sri Lanka (1950000 metric tons)
  • Thailand (1500000 metric tons)
  • Mexico (959000 metric tons)
  • Vietnam (940000 metric tons)
  • Malaysia (710000 metric tons)
  • Papua New Guinea (650000 metric tons)

The top most two countries are serious competitors for the first position in the list. But since last few years the production in Philippines is decreasing gradually. The area covered under the cultivation of coconut in the world is around 26 million acres. The overall production rate is in up trend since the last decade as the production has risen around 25%. The production level in context of coconut oil hovers around 3.5 million tons per year and in context of coconut oil cake is around 2 million tons.

Production of coconut in India

Coconut has been a part of the Indian culture and has been produced in India since a very long time. Currently India stands third in the list of the maximum coconut producing countries of the world. The coconut produce in India was. 14811.1 million nuts in the year 2006. The area under the plantation cultivation sums up to around 1.78 million hectares in the country. The states in India that are indulging in the production of this fruit with their annual average production figures are

  • Kerala (6326 million nuts)

  • Tamil Nadu (4867.1 million nuts)

  • Karnataka (1209.8 million nuts)

  • Andhra Pradesh (892 million nuts)

  • West Bengal (323.5 million nuts)

  • Orissa (274.6 million nuts)

  • Maharashtra (273.4 million nuts)

  • Assam (204.9 million nuts)

Kerala is the largest producer of coconuts in India contributing to around 45% share in the country’s produce. Coconut oil is obtained from the copra with 65 to 70% recovery rate. Regarding the area covered under the production of coconut, Kerala again stands first among the other major states indulging in the production.

Indian coconut market

Coconut has the Indian link since a long time in history. The southern part of the country literally thrives on coconut, it being a staple food there. It also forms part of the Indian culture and also has importance in numerous old rituals. India had been a competent producer of coconuts in the world and currently places on 3rd rank in the list of the major coconut producers of the world. India produces 95 lakhs of coconut annually, Kerala being the largest producing state. In the context of coconut productivity, Maharashtra leaves all its competitors behind with a rate of 914548 nuts per hectare.

The consumption of coconut is dominated by the food sector and a significant part is also utilized in obtaining coconut oil. The oil is further used in industrial applications like hair oils, soaps, shampoos etc. this demand in the country is much higher than the current production which turns one of the major coconut producing country into a net coconut importer country. India imports the coconut in oil form annually at over 150000 tons. The country also exports small quantities of coconuts but it depends upon the domestic yield.

Market Influencing Factors

  • Pests and diseases

  • International price fluctuations especially in the major producing countries

  • Supply and demand scenario of competitive oils

  • Flow of information among the product chain

  • Seasonal changes

Major trading centers of coconut

The major markets of coconut in the world are
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka

The future contracts of the commodity are not traded anywhere outside India. The major trading center of coconut in India is Kochi. Coconut complex is traded in the Indian commodity exchanges namely National Multi Commodity Exchange of India ltd and Multi Commodity Exchange of India ltd.

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