Island’s coconuts converting to Australian Organic status

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 25th February 2013

Vanuatu is beginning to convert its largest coconut plantations to organic this month.

Sanma Community Coconuts, which collectively encompasses over four hundred hectares of coconuts on Espiritu Santo Island, and more than 200 growers, are accepting organic from Australia.

The largest single owned coconut plantation, Plantation Russet du Vanuatu, covering 1550 hectares, is also converting to organic.

The changes are part of the Vanuatu Sustainable Agri-Business Initiative (VASABI), which aims to increase grower returns by converting plantations to organic.

VASABI was launched by an organisation called African Pacific, in conjunction with the Vanuatu Government, the Vanuatu Agriculture College, World Vision and Australian Organic (formerly Biological Farmers of Australia, BFA).

The population of Vanuatu is 234,000, spread over 83 islands. About 85 per cent of the population are farmers.  More than half of the rural population produce coconuts.

In Vanuatu, coconuts are already usually grown organically with no synthetic fertilisers because the soil is very fertile. Organic certification, however, will now mean Vanuatu’s coconut growers will have improved records of farm practices. Produce is intended for the premium-priced organic market sector.

“It’s great that organic certification can be a vehicle to improve the social capital and livelihoods of people from the rural sector,” says Australian Organic’s Greg Paynter.

World Vision Project Coordinator Mackenzie Vagaha agrees. “Organic represents a new and exciting market opportunity for Vanuatu and its farmers,” says Vagaha. “Our journey has just begun.”

The Vanuatu farmers expect to achieve full organic certification in 2015.