An ambitious project being showcased at the ongoing Emerging Kerala meet at Le Meridien International Convention Centre in Kochi is the Rs.5-crore Coconut-based Food Processing Plant at the Industrial Growth Centre of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) at Kinalur here.
According to a report prepared by the KSIDC officials, the proposed plant will be an integrated one delivering multiple products, including virgin coconut oil, spray-dried coconut milk powder, desiccated coconut powder, coconut vinegar and nata-de-coco, which has great commercial potential both in the domestic and export market.
Besides, the plant will be capable of processing coconut-based food products such as coconut milk cream, packaged tender coconut water and coconut oil with no additional machinery. The project is expected to provide employment to 40 people. The revenue at optimum utilisation, 80 per cent from third year onwards, will be around Rs.15.41 crore.
At present about 40,000 tonnes of desiccated coconut is manufactured annually for use in confectionary and biscuit industry. Virgin coconut oil has a large global market in numerous sectors such as food industry, health care and cosmetics. Coconut vinegar is a widely preferred table seasoning apart from being used as an ingredient in food processing.
Officials say that nata-de-coco is commonly made as sweetened candy or dessert. But it could also be used to make pickles, drinks, ice cream, puddings and fruit mixes. It is a cellulosic white to creamy yellow substance formed by the bacteria on the surface of sugar-enriched coconut water. The jelly is formed from a mixture of coconut water, sugar and glacial acetic acid after the solution is left undisturbed in a jar for two to three weeks.
Spray-dried coconut milk powder is a premium product in the global market.
It is used in the place of fresh coconut milk for food preparation, beverages in household and food industries.
50,000 nuts a day
The processing capacity of the plant will be 50,000 nuts and 200 litres of tender coconut water a day.
This would be 1.5 crore coconuts annually. An extent of around one acre of dry land is required for the purpose. The raw materials are coconut and coconut water. Since coconut water will be available from the nuts itself there is no need to source it separately, they say.
The total cost of machinery for a plant processing 1.5 crore nuts a year is around Rs.2.12 crore. Besides, technology support and details of machinery manufacturers are available from the Coconut Development Board, Kochi. The project implementation period would be one year.
The KSIDC has also proposed means of finance for the project, including equity participation and term loan. Subsidy from different government and quasi- government agencies have also been mooted.
Officials say that the coconut industry has not been able to unleash its true potential for various reasons especially its oil-driven market. But now the industry is undergoing modernisation, product diversification and by-product utilisation. Besides, consumer demands for varied high-value coconut products have also tremendously increased.