How is oil made from coconuts

Coconut oil - Not a good alternative to palm oil

The good news first: We don't need vegetable oils from the tropics, enough indigenous oil plants grow in Europe like for example Olive, rapeseed and sunflower. Domestic food not only saves us from questionable cultivation methods overseas, but also Thousands of kilometers of transport routes around the globe.

Like oil palms, coconut palms also grow only in the warm, humid tropics. They need high temperatures and rainfall all year round to thrive. Conditions as they exist in the areas that naturally exist with tropical rainforests are covered.

The biggest Cultivated areas with coconut palms are in Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Papua New Guinea (see table 1 below). In other words, countries where rainforests are cut down, corruption spreads and human rights are disregarded. But many small island states such as Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands also produce large quantities of coconuts. Coconuts are an important economic factor for these countries.

The cultivation of coconut palms takes up land and large areas for the production of large quantities of coconut oil. A single coconut palm provides around 10-20 kg of copra (dried coconut pulp) per year, from which the coconut oil is pressed. About 0.7 tons of coconut oil can be produced on one hectare with coconut palms. In the case of oil palms, it is around 3 tons per hectare. However, coconut palms not only provide vegetable oil, but many other products (see below).

According to figures from the World Food Organization FAO, the Cultivated area with coconut palms on 12 million hectares figure (almost as big as Greece). The harvest is around 73 million tons of coconuts per year. The production of copra is 5 million tons, the production of Coconut oil at 3.5 million tons per year (for comparison: palm oil 65 million in 2016).

The cultivation of coconuts has so far been dominated by smallholders and a large part of the harvest is consumed locally without being recorded by trade statistics. The price of coconuts and coconut products depends on the world market determined by the large trading groups and their customers. The farmers are left behind. They cannot escape poverty by growing coconut palms. And up Company-owned coconut plantations are often done by day laborers, often under inhumane conditions.

The development of coconut plantations has been overshadowed by the global palm oil boom in recent years. Many of the plantations were also created in colonial times and are considered outdated. Since 1961 the area under cultivation has increased from 5.2 million hectares to around 12 million hectares more than doubled (Chart 1). With the growing demand for coconut oil, the business for plantation companies is becoming increasingly attractive.

Oil or coconut trees are neither bad nor good. The problem lies in the tremendous demand for cheap vegetable oils and fats in the world market. The enormous quantities required by industry can be produced particularly inexpensively on huge industrial monocultures and under exploitative working conditions.

When more and more companies switch from palm oil to coconut oil, problems similar to those with the palm oil industry arise very quickly: land grabbing, clearing for new plantations and the destruction of biodiverssity.