Almost every literature written on coconuts declares it as the “tree-of-life” and rightly so, since almost every part of this amazing palm can be used, from the nuts, fronds, stems to the roots.
However, coconut in the Pacific, over the years, has declined significantly in its economic importance because of a number of factors, including a reduction in productivity of the palms due to the senility of a large part of the crop. Work on finding an economic value for the senile palms and to offer farmers sufficient incentive to clear and replant their coconut palms is continuing.
A current collaborative research project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and led by the University of Tasmania, Australia (UTAs), with supporting partners; the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia (QDAFF), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the forestry agencies of Fiji, Samoa and the Solomon Islands, is for the “Development of advanced veneer and other products from coconut wood to enhance livelihoods in the Pacific”. This research is primarily focusing on peeling senile coconut stems into quality veneer sheets that can have high appearance and structural market value to help utilise the old palms in the Pacific.
The lathe machine and associated equipment for the coco-veneer trials have been installed and commissioned at the Timber Utilisation Division, Nasinu, Fiji (TUD), coinciding with the annual coco-veneer project meeting which was held in Narere, Fiji, from 18-21 August 2014. The opportunity was also used to conduct some training for the TUD staff on the operations and maintenance of the peeling facility.
Mr Tony Bartlett, the ACIAR Forestry Research Program Manager, says that this facility can provide landowners with a way to sell/use their senile coconut palms and can help upgrade the agricultural sector in making sensible land changes. Also, many people love coconut wood products because of the wood’s unique grain finish, and so the market for this product is available.
The training involved the staff at the Timber Utilisation Division, Suva, Fiji; a participant from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Samoa; and staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community under the teachings and guidance of the trainers from QDAFF.
The veneer produced in this training will be shipped over to the QDAFF Salisbury Research Station, Brisbane for further research and analysis including the veneer’s gluing and panel making characteristics. A second training followed by more elaborate peeling studies are scheduled before the end of this year.