Coconut lovers pay an arm and leg for the nut

Tuesday April 17 2018

A coconut tree.

A coconut tree. The nut has rocketed in popularity, thanks to a celebrity-backed trend. PHOTO | FILE 

By KAZUNGU SAMUEL
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Outside a small hotel in Kilifi Town, Khadija Badi serves her customers with pigeon peas dressed in coconut milk.

Although enjoying good patronage at the facility with a lot of coastal delicacies, Ms Badi says she has been forced to increase the prices of her foods.

A plate, which was selling at Sh30, now goes for Sh50 thanks to coconut shortage that has hit the Coast.

She is not alone as the price of coconuts has shot up following reduced production blamed on a long dry spell and ageing trees.

“I now buy a coconut at Sh30 but even getting the commodity is another problem altogether.

We cannot find them because they are scarce,” she told the Smart Company.

“Earlier I was buying a piece at Sh5, and this was affordable. But now, with the product just not about to be found, it is a big problem,” said Badi.

On the other hand customers who do bump into coconuts in supermarket shelves may find themselves paying more than usual.

The prices of products made from the fruit including cooking oils have also jumped.

The fruit has rocketed in popularity, thanks to a celebrity-backed trend for drinking coconut water and using its oil.

Drop in production

Production has fallen too, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which says aged trees, pests and diseases have led to smaller crops.

This, along with increased demand, has pushed up the price up.

Seated outside her small hotel in Kibaoni, Zawadi Baya also ponders what the future holds for her eatery business.

“I am now selling coconut milk dressed beans at Sh70 a plate because of the increased price. I also don’t get them often because they are now scarce.

"Earlier when we could get a piece at Sh10, it was reasonable to sell a plate at Sh30.

'Things have changed and we are buying a single coconut at Sh40 or even Sh50 depending on the size. It is pushing my business to the wall,” she said.

Kenya is currently grappling with a major shortage of coconuts, a reason that has led to increased prices of products associated with the nut.

Prolonged drought

The scarcity, according to some farmers, has been caused by prolonged drought and the increasing sale of coconut to neighbouring Tanzania.

Susan Sonje who runs a virgin coconut oil processing cottage industry at her village in Gede has also increased the price of her oil.

“I started this business in 2012 after training by Kenya Coconut Development Authority (KCDA).”

The mother of five produces an average of 10 litres of oil every three days, but she said lack of coconut is hampering the growth of business.

“Initially I used to sell a 500 ml for Sh700 but I am now selling it at Sh1,000 while a Sh250ml which I used to sell at Sh350 is now retailing at Sh500.

"This has been caused by the increase in coconut price. Currently, I buy a piece at Sh20 from farmers in the village. Sadly, there is also none and if the situation persists, then I will have to close the business,” she said.

She says her business had already started to attract customers outside Kilifi county.

"I want to expand my business but it will all depend on the availability of coconut,” said Sonje.

She also said that many farmers have opted to sell their coconuts to Tanzania business people who flock the villages.