Brazil’s Coconut Water Coming to a Store Near You

The Brazilian coconut water market is around 600 million liters a year. The
development of machinery to extract the water from the fruit and the packaging
technology has made the sector expand rapidly since the 1990’s. Sales of the
Brazilian product in long life packages have doubled in the last five years,
rising from 60 million to 120 million units.

by Geovana Pagel


Product export represents less than 10% of the total produced, but sector specialists are very optimistic. “There is a large market to be won for this typically Brazilian product,” stated Denis Ribeiro, economic director of the Brazilian Association Brazilian Food Processors Association (Abia).


According to him, the organization has a partnership with the Brazilian Export Promotion Agency (Apex) and is always participating in international fairs.


In December last year, for example, representatives of the Abia participated in the Brazilian Week & Trade Exhibition in Dubai. “The Arab countries are still not among the importers, but I believe that this will change in little time,” he believes.


In the last 10 years, the sector has been registering consumption growth of around 20% a year on the domestic market.


“We believe that the future is in investment to increase product conservation, generate safe packages, and market the product, mainly on the foreign market,” guaranteed the director.


The largest domestic producers have already noticed that the market is expanding. The Socôco group, born in the northeastern Brazilian state of Alagoas in 1966 and which produces 3.8 million litres of coconut water per year, has been investing mainly in their Kero-Coco brand.


“In the last three years we have invested around US$ 1.36 million in our Petrolina unit (in the northeastern state of Pernambuco), inaugurated around one and a half years ago, and generated around 250 new jobs,” explained Leonardo Tenório, the company export manager.


The group owns Socôco farm, with 5,000 hectares, one of the most productive farms in  the world: 120 coconuts per tree/year, three times the Brazilian average, which is around 40 coconuts per palm each year.


Of the 800,000 trees they have, around 75% are in the productive phase, guaranteeing over 70 million fruit a year, or 15 tons/day.


Tenório explained that foreign trade of coconut water started around nine years ago. “Japan, the United States, Europe, and countries in South America are our main targets. However, we are interested in new markets, like the Arab countries,” he said.


ígua de Coco da Amazônia (Amacoco), a joint venture between Socôco and group Regon from the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, invested around US$ 6.8 million in the construction of a plant for packing coconut water in tetra pak packages.


This package guarantees the product a shelf life of eight months without refrigeration.


Responsible for 70% of the domestic packed coconut water market, Amacoco is going to add another 500,000 liters a month of productive capacity to their current 2 million liters per month, with the installation of another production unit, in the northern state of Pará.


Amacoco, established in 1995, has been exporting coconut water for 5 years, especially to the United States, Japan, Jamaica, Portugal, France, England, Puerto Rico, and Africa.


In all, the company produces 15 million liters and exports 750,000 liters. They have two factories, one in the city of Belém, capital of Pará, and another in Petrolina, employing 220 people.


Greater productivity


Expansion of industrialization also reflects the great increase in production of dwarf coconuts, a variety especially for the production of coconut water.


The country currently has 90,000 hectares of cropland, three times more than five years ago. Of this total, less than 50% is in effective production. This means that domestic production, around 280 million units in 1999, may reach 1 billion coconuts per harvest by 2005.


Coconuts are still cultivated mainly on the coast of the Brazilian Northeast. However, the species is expanding to the Northern and Midwestern region, and also to parts of the South and Southeast, and to the semi-arid Northeast. The most important varieties are the Giant (Typica) and Dwarf (Nana).


The Hybrid is the result of a cross between these two varieties. According to figures supplied by the Brazilian Association of Coconut Producers (Abrascoco), 70%, 20% and 10% of the coconut palms planted are Giant, Dwarf, and Hybrid, respectively.


According to researcher Wilson Aragão, of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), hybrid coconuts may offer various advantages over the other two varieties when in good agro-ecological planting conditions.


It presents greater pulp productivity (8.5 to 9 tons per hectare) when compared to the Dwarf (8 tons per hectare) and the Giant (3.5 to 5 tons per hectare).


It also concentrates more water (10,000 to 12,000 liters per hectare) and greater fruit productivity (20,000 to 24,000 fruit per hectare) than the 5,000 to 7,000 and 8,500 to 11,500 liters per hectare of the Giant.


With regard to the Dwarf, the Hybrid has the advantage of a more vigorous plant, with greater water productivity (500 ml/fruit against 300 ml/fruit) and pulp (350 to 400g/fruit against 200g/fruit, on average).


Bahia in first place


Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, is the largest coconut producer in the country. The state has a cultivated area of 80,000 hectares of coconut palms, and the annual production of over 250 million fruit. This production contributes over US$ 27.3 million to the Agricultural Gross Productive Value (GPV), and generates 240,000 work posts.


In the world ranking, Brazil is the fifth producer of the fruit, losing to the Philippines, Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka.


Last year, in an area of 247,900 hectares, the country harvested around 1.16 million fruit, being 879, 000 from the Northeast. Productivity in Bahia state is 5,212 fruit per hectare.


ANBA ”“ Brazil-Arab News Agency

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