The period between October and January in the subsequent year is the slow season in the Thai coconut industry. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic fuels a global shipping crisis, which further reduces the supply of coconut products. Chinese importers who manufacture coconut-based products are therefore looking to diversify their supply channels and stabilize their import volumes. Manager Su of a Guangzhou-based coconut processing company talked about the domestic sales conditions of coconut-based products as well as the import conditions of fragrant coconuts from Thailand.
Manager Su first talked about the variety of coconut-based products for which fragrant coconuts from Thailand are used. “The fragrant coconut is included on a list of protected varieties in Thailand. The coconut milk of fragrant coconuts is richer and more fragrant than the coconut milk of regular ‘sweet water’ coconuts, and the fragrant coconut is juicier as well. Thailand can produce coconuts all year round. The weather conditions are great for growing coconuts. And Thailand has a strong competitive position in the international market because their production volume is huge and the product quality is great,” said manager Su. “We mainly use fragrant coconuts from Thailand in the manufacturing of two products. The first is quick-frozen coconut water. We mainly sell those products to cold drink shops. The second is canned coconut meat. These cans with coconut chunks are mostly sold in the retail industry or to beverage shops where they are added as seasoning to drinks.”
“Thailand has a wide variety of coconuts. Some processing companies can old coconuts, but the flavor is not as good. We only use fragrant coconuts to ensure the highest quality.”
When asked about the impact of the pandemic on fruit trade, manager Su replied: “The impact has been ongoing for nearly two years and the impact on our coconut import has been significant. Customs clearance only takes 3 days under regular circumstances, but now the additional disinfectant procedures and other measures take up at least 5 days. Not only does distribution take longer, but the labor cost and transport cost go up as well. Transporting coconuts from Thailand to Guangzhou used to cost around 4,000 yuan [627,91 USD] per container, but now the price is at least 20,000 yuan [3,139.57 USD ].”
Although the pandemic has complicated import, the sales figures of canned coconut meat have gone up in the last two years. According to manager Su, “First, most processing facilities turn the coconuts into paste, and only a few turn them into canned coconuts, even though canned coconuts are very popular in the market. Second, many restaurants were closed for business during the pandemic, or the number of customers was much lower than usual, but online sales skyrocketed. The pandemic forced customers who would normally frequent restaurants to change their consumption patterns. They instead ordered online. Even people who had never purchased online before were drawn in. Our sales figures of canned coconut meat increased by at least 15% compared to two years ago.”
“We always use intermediaries to import fragrant coconuts from Thailand, but now that market demand has gone up, we are looking to establish direct contact with coconut production areas in Thailand. We hope to set up direct supply from the production area to our processing facilities. We expect to import around 100 shipping containers of coconuts per year. And we are looking to connect with coconut production areas in Thailand who have been G2 certified by the Thai Ministry of Agriculture,” said manager Su.