ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s coconut milk exporters see a rare opportunity in expanding their sales in foreign markets after an American animal rights group has urged coconut buyers to stop importing coconut milk from Thailand due to monkey labour practice.
Thailand is the third largest coconut exporter in the World after Indonesia and the Philippines, international trade data show.
Sri Lanka is the fourth-largest exporter of fresh and dried coconut products, including desiccated coconut, brown fiber, virgin coconut oil, and coconut water.
“Any situation can be an opportunity if it’s properly identified; the negative publicity surrounding coconut products from Thailand can be advantageous for Sri Lankan coconut exporters to distinguish themselves as an ethical, eco-friendly, and sustainable source of coconut products in the international market,” Gehan de Alwis, Director of Ceylon Coconut Company told Economy Next.
“The recent news articles surrounding coconut products from Thailand will create an opportunity for Sri Lankan coconut products to gain a foothold in the price-sensitive US market with our superior quality and ethically sourced coconut products.”
According to the statistics of Sri Lanka Coconut Development Authority, export of coconut milk had a value of 29,012.96 million rupees in 2022.
In 2022, the total export value of coconut-based products was 817 million US dollars.
The comments from local coconut exporters came nearly a week after Laura Shields, the Director of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a US-based animal rights organization, urged international buyers to stop purchasing coconut from Thailand, as the country still uses pigtailed macaque monkeys to pick coconuts.
The practice of using pigtailed macaque monkeys to pick coconuts in Thailand dates back around 400 years, and many animal rights organizations have tried to force the country to stop the practice over the years.
“Now the push is to just stop sourcing from Thailand entirely and source from other places that produce coconut milk without the use of monkeys, like the Dominican Republic, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines,” Shields was quoted in an interview with the US-based online news platform Axios.
According to export data provided by the Office of Agricultural Affairs at the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, DC, Thailand has around 80 percent of the market share for coconut milk in the US and exported nearly 78,000 tons in 2020. (Colombo/March13/2023)