I took a loan from DBT in the month of December 2020. This was under the Government support for private sector development in response to the COVID19. The amount allowed under this scheme was AUD$7,000. Its main focus was on the revival of traditional food production to foster greater consumption of local food that are more nutritious that imported food such as rice, flour and frozen meet. It was a good initiative albeit small but at least facilitated the start of my business which was mainly on the production of CVO. It also enabled my wife and I to diversity towards the production of added value coconut products like red toddy syrup; puleleti (coconut candies a mixture of grated coconut cooked in red toddy syrup); and kapeni (coconut jam).

CVO is a top highly demanded oil throughout the world. It is a healthy oil in par with other oils like olive. It has healing qualities manifested in the quick response in getting rid of baby rashes including sores when applied onto the skin. It is also a quality sun tan oil. Good for people with diabetes and high blood pressure taking a teaspoon CVO daily first thing in the morning. Many cosmetics also use CVO as its base oil. For Tuvalu CVO is indeed a highly positive response to capture the thousands of wasted coconuts on all the islands, many of which are left un-harvested to grown into young coconut shoots that become inedible and added to the unwanted bush on all the islands. From experience so far farmers which I purchase coconut from them on the islands receive an average of $100 Australian for every 500 nuts. Easy money for them.

The amount of A$7,000 although appreciated as a starting capital it is however very minimal in comparison with the capital investment required for small profitable CVO manufacturing operation. So far, my wife and I had been preparing our own CVO through home-style techniques and we seem to have found a good method that gives us approximately 1.5 to 2 liters of CVO from 250 nuts. We had just managed to acquire a small grating machine. We still need a “squeezer’ machine to extract the coconut milk. We also need the right utensils mainly stainless dishes, pots, containers to store the CVO and last but the least the bottles for packing including the labels. Production of CVO require high hygiene and quality sanitation to ensure it reaches the top grade. I have sent samples to Fiji to test but unfortunately did not reach the Laboratory safely. The closure of our borders now will delay the testing of our samples.

Finally, there are also small CVO operations on a number of outer islands that I am trying to link up with them to help in the marketing, production and quality control of their products. More funds will be needed for this activity. In the meantime, there is great need for further capital input and as well as supporting agricultural subsidies to boost the production of CVO. CVO together with the production of added value coconut products is certainly a grand opportunity to increase the contribution of agricultural exports to Tuvalu’s GDP. In addition, it contributes to the good health of the people of Tuvalu.

Rt Honorable Bikenibeu Paeniu (Agriculture – Coconut Virgin Oil)