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- CRB Fundamentals - 2008 Commodity Articles

Coconut Oil and Copra

Coconut oil and copra come from the fruit of the coconut palm tree, which originated in Southeast Asia. Coconut oil has been used for thousands of years as cooking oil, and is still a staple in the diets of many people living in tropical areas. Until shortages of imported oil developed during WWII, Americans also used coconut oil for cooking.

Copra is the meaty inner lining of the coconut. It is an oil-rich pulp with a light, slightly sweet, nutty flavor. Copra is used mainly as a source of coconut oil and is also used shredded for baking. High-quality copra contains about 65% to 72% oil, and oil made from the copra is called crude coconut oil. Crude coconut oil is processed from copra by expeller press and solvent extraction. It is not considered fit for human consumption until it has been refined, which consists of neutralizing, bleaching and deodorizing it at high heat with a vacuum. The remaining oil cake obtained as a by-product is used for livestock feed.

Premium grade coconut oil, also called virgin coconut oil, is oil made from the first pressing without the addition of any chemicals. Premium grade coconut oil is more expensive than refined or crude oil because the producers use only selected raw materials and there is a lower production yield due to only one pressing.

Coconut oil accounts for approximately 20% of all vegetable oils used worldwide. Coconut oil is used in margarines, vegetable shortening, salad oils, confections, and in sports drinks to boost energy and enhance athletic performance. It is also used in the manufacture of soaps, detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, candles, glycerin and synthetic rubber. Coconut oil is very healthy, unless it is hydrogenated, and is easily digested.

Prices - The average monthly price of coconut oil (crude) in 2006 fell -10.29% yr/yr to 29.10 cents per pound. The record high of 60.21 cents per pound was posted in 1984.

Supply - World production of copra in 2007 fell by -6.8% yr/yr to 4.652 million metric tons, and remains far below the record high of 5.662 million metric tons posted in 2001. The world's largest producers of copra are the Philippines with 37% of world production, Indonesia with 29%, India with 13%, and Mexico with 4%. World production of coconut oil in the 2006-07 marketing year fell by -0.1% yr/yr to 2.895 million metric tons.

Demand - Virtually all of world production of copra in 2006-07 went for crushing into coconut meal and oil (over 99%). World consumption of coconut oil in 2006-07 fell -0.1% yr/yr to 2.950 million metric tons, well below the record high of 3.349 million metric tons in 2000-01.

Trade - Copra is generally crushed in the country of origin, meaning that less than 4% of copra itself is exported; the rest is exported in the form of coconut oil. World exports of coconut oil in 2006-07 fell by -19.5% yr/yr to 1.747 million metric tons, down from last year's record high of 2.171 million metric tons.

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