Remembering Kevin Moore

Is There A Shortage Of Coconut Oil And Other Healthy Coconut-Based Foods?

More and more people who are trying to be health-conscious in recent years are turning to quality sources of the healthy fats that are found in coconuts. Although it has gotten an unfair bad rap for several decades from what I’m sure are well-meaning health “experts” who foolishly warned the public against the dangers of consuming this natural food loaded with saturated fats, the research on the health BENEFITS of things like coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut water can no longer be ignored by those seeking optimal health. If you want to learn more about the myriad of reasons why you should be eating more coconut in your diet, then simply listen to my November 2009 podcast interview with coconut health expert Dr. Bruce Fife from the Coconut Research Center (in fact, Dr. Fife will be making a return visit to the podcast later this year sharing about his new book demonstrating how coconut-based foods can help reverse Alzheimer’s disease). But now supporters of coconut oil and other healthy coconut-based foods have reason to be greatly concerned about this hot health commodity–there are worldwide shortages of the precious coconut supply due to four main factors: weather irregularities, increased consumer demand, the depressed economy and higher fuel costs, and rising food prices.

According to this January 10, 2011 Financial Express column on the coconut shortages, coconut oil is at an all-time high and up over 85% in cost from a year ago. Here’s a graph from AgMarket that illustrates how prices have nearly doubled since 2010:

The following graph from coconut oil manufacturer Nutiva shows just how stark the rise has been over the last 12 months with the trend not looking too good for people who want to keep coconut oil in their diet:

Brian Shilhavy, Founder and CEO of coconut foods manufacturer Tropical Traditions, said this worldwide shortage is a reality due to many factors.

The El Nino effect in the most recent season has decreased yields.

The major coconut-growing regions of the Philippines, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, have all been through some horrendous dry spells which have cut coconut production by nearly one-third. Analysts are holding out hope that this will improve by the end of 2011, but the future outlook is still quite murky at this point. Weather has also played a role in other regions driving up the cost of many commodities which in turn has contributed to an increase in world food prices as well.

While many of us have been sharing compelling information about why coconut-based foods should be a part of a healthy diet for many years, it now seems the message is finally taking root and consumers are increasing demand. This added consumer pressure on the coconut market has baffled coconut growers who have been led to believe that saturated fat is somehow harmful to your health, Shilhavy added.

As a result, as coconut trees grew older they were cut down and not replanted for more than 30 years now. The tide of opinion regarding the health benefits of coconut oil has slowing been turning back around since we started publishing the truth on the Internet in year 2000, and this year even mainstream media sources are beginning to give positive coverage to coconut oil.

He added that much of the coconut research is now being published in coconut-producing countries as evidenced here and here, for example, as a way to encourage them to keep harvesting this healthy tree nut. Add to these shortages in coconut oil the higher demand for coconut water and coconut palm sugar which is leading directly to coconut shortages and an unsustainable agricultural environment as Shilhavy has sounded the alarm about on his blog. He explains why this is so critical.

The problem with coconut water is that the most nutritious water is from young coconuts, before the coconut is fully developed. When the water is taken from unripe green coconuts, there is no meat to be used for dried coconut or to make coconut oil. Major soft-drink companies are now going into coconut-producing companies and buying up young coconuts just to make coconut water products.

Shilhavy says the responsible thing to do for sustainability of the coconut harvest is to use the water from mature coconuts and then allow processing of coconut oil from there. He notes the water is “not as nutritious” but allows for “a much more responsible way of approaching the demand for coconut water.” Coconut water distributors are looking at coconut-producing countries around the world to meet the growing demand since Brazil literally destroyed their coconut crop making unsustainable coconut water.

Additionally, another contributor to the rising price of coconut oil is increased fuel costs which have forced the use of coconut oil as a biofuel. As countries like the Philippines and Sri Lanka have attempted to deal with their own financial woes due to the global recession, it has left the future of coconut-based food availability in jeopardy. This is not a simple problem that will fix itself overnight and the coconut consumer is going to likely feel it in their wallet if they haven’t already.

Nutiva has responded to the rise in coconut oil pricing by raising the price on their larger sizes while maintaining the price on their the 15-ounce and 29-ounce sizes. Tropical Traditions has not yet raised their retail pricing and they evaluate this very fluid and serious issue that could directly impact the future availability of coconut oil and other healthy coconut-based foods. Since many coconut palm trees take ten years to begin producing fruit after planting, this presents a real problem. While there are some hybrid varieties that are able to grow in just five years, Shilhavy says “we are not convinced yet that the nutritional quality is the same and need to further research this if those breeds become more prevalent.”

It will take many years for supply chains to catch up, and we may see the value of coconut quite literally be worth its weight in gold.

The best tip I can give you if you want to have coconut oil for your healthy low-carb lifestyle is to try to stock up now. I just got a big order of coconut oil recently and the expiration on the label isn’t until late 2012/early 2013. This should hold me until then, but it appears unless something drastic happens that we could go several years before new coconut-based foods are available to the consumer. I felt it was important to bring this information to your attention so you are not caught by surprise when you try to go find some coconut oil and availability is scarce.

Here are some links to Amazon where you can purchase coconut oil:

  • Our local bulk food store has it by the small tub or by the gallon. This time I bought a whole gallon of it since it’s almost all I use now besides butter.

    • I’ve virtually replaced butter with coconut oil in the past year.

  • GrannyMumantoog

    I gets harder & harder for someone on a small fixed income to eat healthy. I’m going to try to by extra. We keep learning more & more negative results from 30+ years of stupidity. I fear we haven’t heard the last of it either.

    • As long as there are the ignorant among us, it will continue…sadly.

  • Dame Liberty

    Thanks for the heads up, Jimmy. Heading to Whole Foods today to stock up.

  • Thanks for this info, Jimmy! I love, love, *LOVE* coconut! Time to stock up because I don’t think I could do without coconut oil. You are right; if the public understood the spectrum of healthy products and the multitude of uses you can get from a coconut, the entire coconut would be used.

    I wish popcorn was still popped at the movie theater in coconut oil. Not that I would eat it (corn and I do not agree), but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to my son as a treat on the rare occasions we go.

    • It’s prudent to get it while you still can.

  • Thanks for the heads up Jimmy. I think I will go out and buy 2 years worth,I love the stuff.

  • Jennifer

    I love my coconut! I am so saddened to hear about the shortage. Should we discourage the purchase of coconut water from now on so that the young coconuts are able to mature? I really love it, but the value of coconut oil and milk is more important to me.

    • I agree Jennifer! I’d rather have the oil any day of the week.

  • Sonya

    I’ll not be buying coconut water any more, either. Definitely gonna stock up this weekend. Thanks for the sad heads up, Jimmy.

    • I was stunned about this too, but took appropriate action for getting what I need.

  • Steve

    I was surprised to find coconut oil at The Vitamin Shoppe. I believe their house brand extra virgin product is currently on sale. I haven’t opened the jar yet, but it looks like a high quality product. They have 400 stores nation wide. No I am not affiliated with them :’)

    • It’s available everywhere right now and there are different qualities of coconut oil. This may not be the case one year from now.

  • pjnoir

    Everyone, stop! Coconut oil is not good for you or at least let me stock up first. WF- had reg 9.99 jars for sale now at 13.99. And Jimmy- B U T T E R is wonderful. I need to buy a lot of DUCKS, my friends. Time to render.

    • HAHAHA! I love my butter, too, PJ! But coconut oil has dominated my fat choice the past year.

  • Alice

    Do the cheaper oils like the louana coconut oil that they sell at Walmart still have any health benefits?

    • Some…but even those will become scarce at some point.

  • I just bought another gallon from Tropical Traditions with the sale they have going on through April 28. Darn, I should have bought *two*. I use coconut oil so much now that I’ve been going through my current gallon pretty rapidly. I’ve been using it a lot more than butter lately. But butter is also good, so maybe I’ll go back to a more half-and-half regimen for a while. No coconut oil on the LC cruise, alas. 🙁

  • Valmer

    I am looking for a coconut oil supplier of reputable dealer and reasonable prices…can anyone recommend a supplier.Its hard to get reasonable prices in Canada Thnx everyone

  • Lynn

    So are you saying it will start to run out in 2012? My local suppliers all seem to have tons of it still.

    • Production will likely cease in 2012 and it will probably be noticed on store shelves by 2013 unless something changes.

  • Lynn

    Thanks SO MUCH for bringing it to our attention Jimmy. I will stock up.

  • Paul

    Stocking up will merely exacerbate the problem and drive the price up further, faster. It will reach equilibrium eventually and the folks that grow and harvest them could use the extra money anyway.

    • I just interviewed someone today about this issue who is a coconut expert and he says the situation is already starting to improve.