There’s a coconut shortage in the Caribbean, so chill on the coconut water and oil
Coconuts are good for us. But we are not good for coconuts. Because of the trendy appeal (and actual health benefits) of anything having to do with the water, oil, milk, or fruit of the tropical plant, there is now a coconut shortage in the Caribbean, and we really have only ourselves to blame. OK, it’s not all our fault — it’s also the weather’s fault. Due to a bunch of bad storms, drought, and a disease called lethal yellowing, the supply of coconut is quickly depleting. This has been happening for a while and farmers didn’t invest in pesticides or plan ahead on how to supply everyone in America with coconut milk for their smoothies, so we’re about to see a huge drop in coconut products and/or a crazy rise in prices.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, Caribbean plantations have shrunk 17 percent since 1994, so at this rate, we’re screwed. Vilma Da Silva, an exporter from Guyana, told Bloomberg she and her husband don’t plant anything on their 35 acre farm but coconuts to export for water just to keep up with demand. The demand is so high that some farmers just aren’t even farming them correctly to keep up the pace, so they’re picking them too early just to hand off to exporters.
And the demand is real: All Market, which makes Vita Coco, goes through 1.6 million coconuts every single day, according to Bloomberg. Even Starbucks can’t keep their coconut milk supply stocked for shit. Everyone is cookoo for coconuts.
In places like Trinidad, there have been reports of fraud, like manufacturers using plain old water in bottles labeled as coconut water. That will just never do.
It doesn’t look like the demand is going away anytime soon (how many superfoods can really exist in this world?). Coconut water alone is a $4 billion industry, and the price of coconut oil has risen 50 percent since 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sure, there are lots of other places like India and Indonesia where we can import coconuts from, but those areas have run into problems yielding enough fruit due to storms and other natural disasters, too.
The only way to keep up this high supply of coconuts is to start planting more and farming them correctly. Doing that in a sustainable and socially conscious way might prove to be difficult, though. Mixing up your coconut milk intake with almond milk now and again and buying coconut products that come from ethical suppliers that work with the region is a good start.