Unquenchable thirst for South-East Asia’s fresh coconuts

JUST days after China authorised imports of fresh coconuts from Cambodia, fruit dealer Chen Peizhu has already received several orders from Chinese buyers.

“Cambodian coconuts are high quality and have competitive prices. Their fragrant coconut variety is in short supply in China,” said Chen, general manager of Yuhua Hongda, a fruit trading company based in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

He plans to start by importing five containers of coconuts each month, the majority of which will go to trendy coconut chicken hotpot restaurants or be made into bottled coconut water, a healthy drink popular among young Chinese consumers.

“There is a huge gap in the supply of coconuts, coconut water and other related products in China. We expect huge demand for imported coconuts,” he said.

Coconuts are not new to Chinese consumers. Coconut water has long been a household drink, appearing on family banquets alongside Coca-Cola and Pepsi, though its popularity waned when beverages such as bubble tea became trendy and stole the spotlight.

But the fruit has been making a comeback in recent years, entering the sports drink market and being used widely in tea and coffee products.

According to customs data, China imported 1.07 million tonnes of coconuts in 2022, up 22.8% from 872,000 tonnes in 2011, with Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines being the main countries of origin.

Karta International, a Malaysian supplier of coconut products, said its coconut water has gained a foothold in the Chinese market and has sold well on platforms such as Pinduoduo and Douyin.

“China is a huge market for us,” said Yeow Kian Siang, Karta International’s export manager, at the recently concluded 20th China-Asean Expo. — Xinhua

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