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Papua New Guinea coconut production keeps German tradition

www.monstersandcritics.com    11/25/2011 10:23:00 AM    ReadCount:803

Karkar, Papua New Guinea - A century after the Berlin-based New Guinea Company started coconut palm plantation on this Pacific Ocean archipelago, the popular fruit is still being harvested and used to make everything from oil for soap to food products.
Paul Goodyear and his wife German wife Barbara run a 2,000-acre plantation farm on the Karkar Island, off the eastern shore of Papua New Guinea's main island, where they employ 600 people.
Row upon row of palm trees measuring 30 to 40 metres high tower over the farm. The trees are called 'German palms', a reference to the Berlin-based company that started industrial palm plantation here 100 years ago and to the Papua New Guinea's former colonial master Germany, which ruled the island from 1884 till the First World War.
Coconut and coconut-based products once accounted for 90 per cent of Papua New Guinea's exports, until investors discovered the country's vast natural resources of copper, gold, nickel, oil, gas and wood. But coconut is still a main source of revenue.
The Goodyear plantation produces 50 tons of copra - dried coconut flesh from which the oil is extracted - and 20 tons of cocoa every month, says farm manager John Lang, who has worked here for 25 years.
The oil is used to make soap and margarine.
Although coffee has in recent years surpassed coconut on Papua New Guinea's exports list, the country remains one of the world's top ten coconut producers.
Workers at the Goodyear farm collect coconuts that fall from the tree once they become ripe. The fruit's tough brown shell is then broken and the flesh is left to dry in sheds before it is pressed for oil.
'Everything is done manually,' says Lang.
He says that 6,000 coconuts are need to make a ton of copra, which gives 420 litres of oil. Every tree grows about 75 coconuts a year.
The farm also makes cocoa, a fruit whose beans are dried and used to make chocolate.