Industry says US demand strong despite flap over virgin coconut oil health claims

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COCONUT PRODUCTS from the Philippines continue to enjoy strong demand from the US market, an industry association said.

The United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (UCAP) said virgin coconut oil and other processed products are riding the trend towards healthy lifestyles in the US, noting that a trade show in Maryland in September generated $6 million in orders.

“America still loves our coconuts,”  UCAP Chairman Dean A. Lao, Jr. said in a statement Wednesday.

Yvonne T. Agustin, UCAP executive director, noted that in the six months to June, exports of coconut oil totaled $1.132 billion, nearly doubling from a year earlier.

The association said coconut products face competition from the soybean oil industry, which disputes coconut oil’s health benefits.

UCAP medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut oil are linked to a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease in populations studied.

Dr. Fabian M. Dayrit, who chairs the Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) Scientific Advisory Committee for Health, said APCC is planning a scientific conference with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“FAO agreed to a technical meeting in a scientific conference among experts in 2018,” Mr. Dayrit said.

UCAP’s Mr. Lao said the country must invest in product research, citing the example of Thailand, which lead Southeast Asia in coconut product innovation.

“We are good in shipping in bulk.  (But) consumer products bring higher value,” Mr. Lao said. — Janina C. Lim