Back in history: Coconut products – Money-earning commodity

External trade organisation chairman of Paul Freeman inspects facilities at Alfa Laval’s Centre in Singapore where the Taveuni coconut cream has been processed. Picture: FIJI TIMES/FILE

The production of edible coconut cream in the late 1980s looked as if it was going to become one of those major money-earning commodities for the country.

This, according to a vice president of an external trade organisation (ETO), Rupeni Tuiloma.

He said it would be a huge step forward for the country’s export and import sector.

The Fiji Times reported on August 7, 1987, that the quality of the Fiji coconut cream received a special mention in the edition of Food Focus, the corporate information magazine published in Sweden by Alfa Laval Food and Engineering, a world-renowned food processing company.

By the look of things, the product was predicted to hit the USA markets by the end of the year. Suva-based external trade organisation and a Taveuni farmer, Nikola Chapalia, had coconut products taken to Singapore where it was successfully tested at a food factory.

Mr Chapalia planned to start planting coconut trees which were of high quality and high in productivity.

After discussions, it was decided to go in for liquid, to start making aseptic products such as coconut cream and drinks, Mr Tuiloma said.

In March of the previous year, Mr Chapalia sent 1000kg of frozen coconut milk to Alfa Laval’s centre in Singapore for trials.

The test works done concentrated on pasteurisation, sterilisation and recipe development, Mr Tuiloma said.

Attention had to be paid also to coagulation of coconut protein browning, fat oxidation and stabilising of the product against creaming.

It was also necessary to develop a special technique for thawing the coconut milk so that the product would not become sour before it was completely thawed. After more testing and samples, an aseptically packed coconut cream with 25 per cent fat content and preserved coconut flavour was introduced.

The end product was of very high quality since the cream was pressed out of fresh coconut flesh.

Mr Tuiloma said as a result of the excellence of the product, a market in the USA was being vigorously pursued.

“We expect the product to be a major breakthrough for Fiji and would become a major money-earner for coconut farmers,” Mr Tuiloma said.

Fiji Coconut Cream was marketed by ETO and was able to fetch up to $1600 a tonne.

Mr Tuiloma said the ETO president, Paul Freeman, had business connections in the US, which helped develop and market the product.

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