Philippine Coconuts - The Copra Making Process
Copra Business in the Philippines
The Philippines coconut trees occupy about 25% of its cultivated lands. Therefore a great percentage of people are partially dependent on coconut farms. The Philippines is the second top producer of coconut products after Indonesia, but it is the top exporter of coconut products or coconut oil in the world. But as of December 2009 according to Wikipedia, the Food and Agricultural Organization Statistic Division has a new semi-official record that the Philippines is the Top producer of coconut products, producing 19,500,000 tonnes, and Indonesia 15,319,500 tonnes.
People there in the Island have sort of a laid back lifestyle. It is very pleasant and peaceful to live in the coconut plantation area. Far away from the hustle and bustle life in the city of Metropolitan Manila, they live peacefully and happily, even if there is not enough income. The air is very clean, far away from pollution. Even if it’s hot, the soft breeze of the wind blowing compensates for the heat and is very cooling. The coconut land owner provides livelihood to those who have no land and want to work for wages. Coconuts are harvested once every 2 or 3 months depending on how much fruit to harvest, and the land owners will hire workers for the harvest season. The number of workers depends on how large is the coconut plantation, usually one or two workers, if it’s only 1 hectare. I appreciate and salute all the workers who harvest coconuts by climbing the trees one by one. In other place where the coconut is still young and shorter they would just use a long bamboo, attached a sharp knife on the tip and use it to cut off the cluster of mature coconut from the top of the tree.
The Copra-Making Process
Copra is the term for the coconut finished product that is ready to sell to the merchant who, in turn, sells to the coconut oil mills. I am going to show you step by step the process of making Copra.
- Harvesting -
Harvesting coconuts for me is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Some other coconut harvesters might say differently if they use easier methods of harvesting.
This is the method that I know:
To harvest the coconuts, the worker climbs to the top of the tree, and using a sharp, slightly curved knife, cuts down the mature bunch of coconuts, or dislodges them one by one. The worker is expert in deciding which coconut fruit is mature enough to make into Copra. How do they climb the tall trees? When the coconut is younger, during the first harvest, they make a cut on the branch of the tree, alternately from one side to the other side going upwards. This serves as their stepping platforms when they climb the tree.
- Piling & Hauling
As they climb all the trees, somebody on the ground will be gathering and piling up the coconuts. Using a primitive bamboo cart (no wheels) attached to the shoulder of a Carabao or water Buffalo, they start loading the cart and the Carabao will pull the cart with the coconuts to the work area where they pile them again.
- Removing Husk
They remove the husk by using a sharp semi-pointed instrument that is made of steel, hand made and attached to wood to give support. The steel is then inserted into the ground very firmly, and by plunging one side of the coconut to the instrument then pushing down and out removing one section of the husk, doing that about four or five times until the entire husk is removed. This is a difficult task that requires strength.
- Splitting the Coconut in Half
When splitting the coconut, they make sure the line is straight. This is done by using the back of the cleaver to strike the center of the coconut crosswise, quick and strong, while the other hand is holding the coconut steady either against a flat and hard surface or by holding the coconut in the palm. Please don’t attempt this at home if you are not an expert in splitting coconuts.
- Drying the Coconuts
This can be done in two ways:
- One way is to dry them under the heat of the sun. It will take a little bit longer to dry this way.
- Another way is to heat them with fire. The coconut farmers would build a hut ( bamboo house or a shack) with no walls (just roof and floor) and is about 3 feet above the ground. Then they will pile the coconut halves on the floor of the small hut. After that, they will pile some of the coconut husks on the ground underneath the bamboo hut, but not too much so the hut won’t burn. Use a torch to light the piled coconut husks and keep an eye on the fire. It should be medium to low. When the fire is getting low, add some more husks until the coconut is ready to scoop. They can tell because it will turn brown and will separate a little bit from the shell. But they can’t apply too much heat because it will burn. The bottom pile will be finished first. If the bottom is done, you can stop the fire and let it cool down. Then they will remove the ones that are done and place them in another working area. If some of the top ones are not done, they separate them and heat them again until done.
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- Scooping The Coconuts from Its Shell and Selling the Coconuts
This is done by using an instrument that slightly curves towards the tip and is semi-pointed. Usually, they are handmade with a wood handle and designed for their comfort. They scoop the dried coconut meat out of the shell. When everything is scooped, they will start to cut them into 4 to 6 pieces for each coconut half. Then it’s time to put the Copra inside the sack and get ready for selling.
If the coconut plantation is far from the road, they will use the same cart and Carabao to pull the cart to transport the sacks of Copra to the nearby main road where there are motorcycles to carry the sacks to the nearby town where they sell the Copra to the coconut merchants.