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1.1 BACKGROUND OF STUDY
Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) is a tree, referred to as “The Tree of Life”. Early Spanish explorers called coconut, Coco (“monkey face”) because of the three indentations (eyes) on the dehusked coconut fruit which resembles the head and face of a monkey. Nucifera means "nut-bearing" (CRC, 2004). The people of Nzema in the Jomoro district refer to coconut as “Kukue”, the farmers slogan is “Kukue, Esuka Bakah” (Coconut, the money tree), this is as a result of its high economic value.
Nearly one third of the world's population depend much on coconut as their source of food and for their economy (CRC, 2004). On many islands in the world, coconut is a staple in their diet which supply a nutritious meat, oil, juice and milk that has fed and nourished population around the globe for generations (CRC, 2004).
Historically, coconut oil is one of the earliest oils to be consumed as a food and for medicinal purposes (Fife, 2004). People who consume coconut oil or used it as medicine, enjoy remarkably good health and longevity and studies have shown that people whose diet are high in coconut oil, are healthier and have fewer incidences of cardiovascular disease, digestive complaints, cancer and prostate problems (Fife, 2004).
Research and clinical observation have shown that coconut oil contains Medium-chain Fatty Acids which can prevent and treat a wide range of diseases (Fife, 2004). Coconut oil can prevent heart diseases, high blood pressure, stroke, support the development of strong bones and teeth, promote loss of excess weight, protect against kidney diseases and bladder infections. Furthermore, it prevents liver diseases, protect the body from breast, colon and other cancers, control dandruff, wrinkles sagging skin and age spots (Fife, 2004; CRC, 2004 and Organic facts, 2014).
As stated by Coconut Research Centre - CRC (2004), coconut possesses many health benefits due to its fibre and nutritional content. It was stated that it is the oil that makes it a truly remarkable food and medicine. Coconut oil was believed to be unhealthy by most people because of its high saturated fat content, but research indicated that the fats in coconut oil is unique and different from most other fats (Fife, 2004). Coconut oil saturated fatty acids content are predominately medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) which is also known as medium chain triglycerides (MCT) (Fife, 2004).
The best sources of fats are from coconut and palm kernel oils because both the saturated and unsaturated fat found in kernels, milk, eggs and plants (including most vegetable oils) are composed of long chain fatty acid (LCFA) (CRC, 2004).
United Nation Conference on Trade and Development - UNCTAD (2012), stated that coconut oil is used for cooking and in the oleo-chemical industry for making margarine, soaps and it has the potential for energy generation as a bio fuel; either mixed with diesel or as a substitute for diesel.
Coconuts are produced in about 92 countries worldwide on about 11.8 million hectares (29.5 acre) of lands. World production is estimated at 61.7 million tons with an average yield of 5.2 tons / ha. The top leading producing countries are Indonesia (21,565,700 tons), Philippines (15,667,600 tons), India (10,148,000 tons), Sri Lanka (2,099,000 tons) and Brazil (1,973,370 tons) (UNCTAD, 2012).
World coconut oil production has been increasing over the past decade. It is now estimated at 3.5 million tons per annum (UNCTAD, 2012). This accounts for 2.5 % of world vegetable oil production. Over 70 % of global coconut oil production comes from the Philippines (1,690,000 MT), Indonesia (968,000 MT), India (447,000 MT), Vietnam (153,000 MT) and Mexico (145,000 MT). Moreover, the only African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in the top ten coconut oil producers was Papua New Guinea (63,000 MT) and Côte d‟Ivoire (28,000 MT) (UNCTAD, 2012).
In Ghana large scale farms and plantations produce mainly oil palm, rubber and coconut and to a lesser extent, maize, rice and pineapples (FASDEP II, 2007). According to United States Department of Agriculture – USDA, IndexMundi (2014), the production of coconut oil in Ghana has reduced drastically by 42.86 % (4,000 MT) in year 2000. However, in year 2011 it increased by 50 % (6,000 MT) and has remained at that level till 2013.
Exports of Coconut oil have been increasing over the last decade mainly because of the greater global need for coconut oil (essential characteristics). In 2008, just over 2 million tonnes of coconut oil were traded on the world market. The Philippines was the largest exporter of coconut oil in 2008, with 42 % of world exports and the main destination markets for the oil were USA and Europe (Netherlands, Germany) accounting for 24 % and 25 % of imports respectively (UNCTAD, 2012).
As stated in Organic facts (2014), primarily there are 6 varieties of coconut oil found on the world market. The varieties are pure coconut oil, refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, organic coconut oil, organic virgin coconut oil and extra virgin coconut oil. According to Fife (2004), coconut oil can be divided into two categories; “refined, bleached and deodorized” (RBD) coconut oil and “virgin” coconut oils.
There are a lot of methods for processing coconut into oil that can affect the quality, appearance, flavour and aroma. The quality of coconut oil depends a lot on the method of extraction that is practised. Basically, there are two main categories of coconut oil extraction; the first is Cold Pressing of copra (dried coconut kernels) and the second is Boiling/heating of fresh coconut milk (Organic facts, 2014). Cold pressing is the preferred method for the extraction of coconut oil since it retains much of oil‟s goodness (Organic facts, 2014). Coconut contain about 33 % of oil in the nut (Fife, 2004)
The Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II) document (2007), indicated that agriculture in Ghana is characterised by a large smallholder sector and a very small large commercial sector, which comprises of both farming and agro-processing. Small-scale or micro enterprises contribute significantly to economic growth, social stability and equity. The goals for micro enterprise are to increase income and assets, to improve skills and increase productivity (Timpo et al., 2008) as well as to produce new products or improve on existing products.
Adjei-Nsiah (2010) reveal that major refineries in Ghana do not buy palm oil from the small-scale processors due to poor quality oil (high FFA, moisture content and impurities), which unduly increase their cost of production. The coconut oil industry in the Jomoro District may face issues of high impurities, moisture content and high FFA. Moreover, the small-scale processors uses scent, taste and colour to determine quality instead of impurities, moisture content and FFA.
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