Posted by : Posted on : 12-Jul-2020

Solomon Islands:  Are rural communities benefitting from copra exports?

A news report carried by Radio New Zealand today, Sunday, says copra production is exploding in the Marshall Islands.

Quoting the report, it explained:

“With the government subsidizing the copra buying price at US50 cents per pound as incentive and multiple ships servicing the outer islands, Marshall Islands copra makers since January have delivered a bumper crop to Majuro's coconut oil processing factory.”

“Nine months into fiscal year 2020, 5,859.75 tons have been delivered to the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority in Majuro - a tonnage level that in most years would constitute a solid year of copra production.

“The nine-month tonnage total has already surpassed the 12-month fiscal year totals in six of the past 14 years.

“Copra production is on track in FY2020, which ends September 30, for a second consecutive fiscal year with over 7,000 tons of copra processed.

“This has never been done before since records began being kept in 1951. And, if the shipping industry can maintain the feverish pitch that has seen both the January-March and the April-June quarters bring in over 2,400 tons, copra makers could set an all-time record for production in the 70 years since records have been kept.

“Copra production has never broken the 8,000 ton ceiling.”

I am not clear of the situation in the Solomon Islands regarding the potential of copra exports since, in 2009, I seem to recall the local Commodities Exporting and Marketing Authority, CEMAannouncing the Solomon Islands would no longer export copra to overseas markets as from 2010.

A representative of CEMA said, at the time, the reason to stop copra exports was the closing down of mills in Europe, which Solomon Islands normally sold copra.

Another reason made was that a lot of copra exporting countries were moving away from selling copra to coconut oil.

My confusion over the state of the copra export industry in the Solomon was heightened when I read a World Bank report, about 4 years old, which claimed since 2005 the value of exports (from the Solomons) had been as low as SBD 33 million and as high as SBD 232 million, and was then nearer the lower end of the range.

The wide fluctuations have major implications for rural communities, which are heavily dependent on copra sales for cash income generation,” the World Bank report claimed.

The same World Bank report said, quote:

“The Coconut Sector Strategy estimates that total production in the Solomon Islands is about 370 million nuts of which around 70 million worth about SBD 140 million are consumed. Copra exports account for 150-200 million nuts worth some SBD 110-150 million depending on prices.”

Given the boom in copra production and exports from the Marshall Islands, is the Solomon Islands benefitting from the potential of copra exports and to what extent in mid-2020?

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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