UN agency promotes new coconut water preservation process to help small farmers

21 February 2007 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking to boost sales of bottled coconut water by small farmers with a simple cold preservation process that protects the natural taste for up to three weeks while avoiding the loss of nutrients and almost all the delicate flavour entailed in commercial canning.

“The cold preservation process requires little investment and skills, and it offers small entrepreneurs a chance to enter the market of bottling coconut water of good quality,” FAO Rural Infrastructure and Agro-industries Division officer Rosa Rolle said of a new training guide produced by the agency to promote the process.

The process, developed in Jamaica in close collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the Coconut Industries Board and the Jamaican Scientific Research Council, involves filtration, bottling and rigorous temperature control, allowing farmers to produce bottled coconut water that stays fresh from 10 days to three weeks and retains its natural flavour.

This will help to meet demands from domestic retail markets. So far most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical countries but once exposed to air and warm temperatures it rapidly deteriorates.

Present commercial production of canned coconut water has a drawback. Sterilizing the product using high temperature and short-time pasteurization destroys some of the nutrients and almost all of the flavour.

“The simple cold preservation process will provide the consumer the convenience of purchasing a bottle of refreshing coconut water and opens new opportunities for small farmers and entrepreneurs in coconut producing countries,” Ms. Rolle said.

FAO is also finalizing publications on the more sophisticated micro-filtration technique and a low-tech system that can be used by street vendors. The cold preservation technology is not protected by a patent and can be used by anybody.

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