How copra is obtained
Copra is dried coconut albumen.
The flowering of the coconut palm results in
drupes, which are green fruit growing in bunches
of 5 or 6 in the axils of the tree: each fruit in
turn contains 5 or 6 nuts. The nuts are surrounded
by a dense fibrous
husk 5 to 15 cm thick, called the pericarp.
Under the husk, there is a very hard, thin brown
kernel containing the albumen, a milky white
liquid known as coconut milk, which is transformed
into flesh as the fruit matures. This is the
substance of which coconut, or copra, consists.
Germinated coconuts are planted
at low depths in a rich soil to which a
preferably salty sand has been added. Coconut
palms require only approximately 1.5 cubic
metres of water per year, which means that they
do not need to be watered unless the dry season
lasts for longer than 3 months. Although coconut
trees can be planted all year round, it is best
to avoid doing so during the dry season
(see photograph of the Mataiva
coconut palm grove).
Coconut palms produce their first crop at the
age of six to eight years, and continue to
produce coconuts for a further fifty to seventy
years under normal growth conditions, as long as
they undergo no damage. Due to the fragility of
atolls and their exposure to the elements, the
palm trees rarely live so long, however.
when the coconuts have matured,
they fall to the ground. Sometimes the farmers
do not wait for this to occur and harvest them
by picking them from the trees. Once the
coconuts have been collected, the dried albumen
is detached as shown in the photograph.
The coconut flesh is extracted
and dried in the sun until it has lost most of its
water content, which must must not amount to more
than 6%, to
The copra is placed in bags,
which are weighed before being sold and shipped to
Papeete, the home of the "Huilerie de
Tahiti", the Tahiti oil manufacturing company.
obtained from copra
"L'Huilerie de Tahiti" transforms copra into crude oil and oil
Most of the crude oil is exported. A small
proportion is refined at the plant for use in
the manufacture of "monoi de Tahiti", a
traditional skin care product; whereas the oil cakes, which are
used as fodder for cattle and poultry, are
mainly intended for the local market.
Coconut oil is mainly used in
the food processing industry, in the manufacture
of margarine and vegetable fats (such as coconut
butter), where it often undergoes partial
hydrogenation. Coconut oil is also widely used
in the soap-making industry, mainly because of
the lauric acid it contains, which gives soap
excellent foaming properties.
sector of the copra trade produces "monoi
This is a remarkable skin and hair care product
which was officially recognised as an
trade mark" in 1992. In Europe, it
is commonly used as an ingredient
in moisturising sun tan lotions
and skin lotions.
References sources :
(1998), "Tableaux de l'Economie Polynésienne", chapter
12 on Agriculture.
à l'Outre-mer, Informations Economie du Territoire de