An invaluable natural resource
Traditional coprah has been used since the 19th century in Polynesia, being of superior quality due to the warmer and drier climate. In these isolated islands, it remains sometimes the only source of income aside from pearl farming and fishing.
Coconut oil or coprah oil is made from the dried kernel of the coconut, called coprah. The pulp of the coconut is extracted and dried in the sun to reduce its moisture content. It’s then placed in bags to be transported to the mill of Tahiti. A ton of copra requires 4 000 to 5000 coconuts. The crude oil is then extracted from copra using mechanized pressure.
The “Huilerie de Tahiti” (copra processing plant and unique trading entity) was built in 1968. With a production of more than 7000 tons of oil per year, it produces a vegetable oil from copra which 95% are for export, mainly to the European Union (Belgium, Luxembourg and France Metropolitan). However, it faces competition that has developed over several years with the productions of South-East Asia countries.
The mill buys the entire production to transform it in crude oil or meal for animal feed (livestock and poultry) for the local market or refined oil associated with tiare flower for making “Monoi de Tahiti”.
Derived from coprah, coconut oil is also widely used in the food industry for the manufacture of margarine and vegetable fats such as coconut butter. It also has excellent foaming properties and is widely used in the soap industry.
With the development of many products derived from coconut, it will be inevitable to see emerging markets. More interesting would be the prospect of using coconut oil as a source of energy to replace diesel. This promises a bright future for the copra industry and French Polynesia.