Monday, June 30, 2008

Regeneration of Coconut Trees in Minahasa


Minahasa is one of the regencies in Indonesia that has large area of coconut plantation. Coconut has been an important export commodity of the Province of North Sulawesi. After harvesting the fruit, farmers take the white flesh out of the shells and dry it under the sun or roasted it using the shells as the burning fuel. A fresh white flesh or endosperm contains around 40% oil while the dried one, called copra, contains up to 65% oil. Usually, farmers sell their copra to Bimoli factory in Bitung municipality. One metric ton of copra needs between 9,000 and 11,000 coconut fruits.

Coconut fruits can also be processed to make other products such as palm sugar, nata de coco and dessicated coconut or farine de coco. Other side products of coconut are bungkil (solid residue of copra after extracting oil); fiber and coconut shells which are very good raw material for the manufacturing of active carbon.

Coconut will remain productive until the age of 40 years. Then, the output will wall gradually. The minimum economical production rate of coconut should be 5 metric ton per hectare per year. If the amount cannot be met, farmers must do regeneration. This kind of activity will make the land unproductive for the next three or four years until the new plants produce coconut fruits again.

Majority of coconut plantations in Minahasa, North Sulawesi have reached their productive limit. Therefore, they have tobe replaced by young plants. Many Minahasan farmers do not obtain optimum per hectare harvest. They know that they have to replace the old plants with the new ones but high cost of replacement has become the main hurdle for them.

In order to prevent the farmers from not getting income, a gradual regeneration must be introduced. Besides the plantation can still give income to the farmers, it will only need small number of workers. In gradual regeneration scheme, only unproductive plants that will be replaced by young coconut plants. This method is called selective regeneration.

There is also another scheme that is considered suitable for farmers. Young coconut plants will be planted among old trees as insertion plants. When these young plants are able to produce coconut fruits, then the old trees will be cut.

A plantation in Bukit Doa, Pinaling of Minahasa regency raises additional income by opening a prayer resort in the middle of the area. Tourists visit this religious site, recite rosary along the way of the cross that had been constructed among the coconut trees. Incorporating tourism activity into coconut production line needs special preparation and knowledge.

In the Philipines, tourists are invited to visit traditional palm sugar production centers located in the middle of the plantation and the villages.

The conversion of coconut oil to biodiesel is not recommended, unless the market is overstock, as the amount of profit which farmers can gain is not significant. Such conversion will create scarcity of cooking oil in the market. In fact, the ones who enjoy the profit of biodiesel conversion are the manufacturer.

No comments: