The International Coconut Community (ICC) and Sam Ratulangi University, Indonesia jointly organized a webinar on “Coconut for the health and economy of Indonesia during Covid-19 pandemic” on 10 June 2020. More than 500 people took part in the webinar from different part of the country. The resource speakers of webinar included Mr. Olly Dondokambey Governor, North Sulawesi; senior researchers of Sam Ratulangi University Prof. Dr. Lucia Mandey and Prof. Dr. Jemmy Posangi; Mr. Refly Ngantung the head of North Sulawesi Plantation Office, Dr. Ismail Maskromo , Director, Indonesian Palmae Crops Research Institute and Mr. Petrus Tjandra President Director, Indonesia Commodity Derivatives Exchange. Besides officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research and Technology/ National Research and Innovation Agency attended the webinar. Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director of ICC participated as a resource speaker.
In his opening remark, Prof. Dr. Robert Molenaar, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture of Sam Ratulangi University said that the university decided to organize the webinar on coconut because coconut is one of the important and potential crop for North Sulawesi and Sam Ratulangi University is having a mandate from the Ministry of Research and Technology to develop a research study on virgin coconut oil (VCO) and oil clove due to its antiviral activity which is potential against COVID-19, and antiseptic properties which helps to be used to kill virus on the surface of skin; and disinfectant to kill virus on contaminated wall or floor.
Mr. Olly Dondokambey, Governor, North Sulawesi mentioned that the Covid-19 did not have a negative impact on coconut industry in the province. He said that “I have just visited Wilmar Group’s coconut factory in Bitung regency and found out that the factory still operates normally,” “There has been no employee’s dismissal at the company and its export remains undisrupted,” he added. He also proposed the development of Bitung port (province’s main port) so that it can serve as the super hub for Eastern Indonesia region. “We can develop integrated coconut industry and export its products from the Bitung port,” he remarked.
Dr. Jelfina Alouw ICC Executive Director in her address mentioned that coconut is gaining its prominence in recent years. She informed that global coconut production increased to 12.22 million metric tons (MT) in copra equivalent in 2018 from 11.72 million MT in 2017. There is increase in global export of coconut products from 1.9 million MT in 2016 to 2.3 million MT in 2019. Another promising product is coconut water in which the demand is expected to increase from US$ 2.1 billion in 2017 to US$ 8.3 billion in 2023. Coconut is an important export commodity for Indonesia. The country exported more than 610,000 tons of coconut oil, 558,000 tons of fresh coconut and 349,000 tons shell charcoal in 2019. Total value of Indonesian coconut products reached US$2.17 billion in 2019.
On the health aspect of coconut, Dr. Jelfina explained that coconut contain lot of lauric acid (C12) and monolaurin (ML) which is generally recognized as safe (GRASS) and potentially used against COVID-19 through three potential mechanism such as disintegration of lipid membrane, prevented the binding of viral proteins to the host cell membrane, and block the late maturation stage of the virus.
In her presentation Dr. Jelfina focused ICC’s functions which include fostering cooperation among its members in the exchange of information, knowledge, technologies, and experience, promoting the positive attributes of coconut products and counter any adverse publicity against the products. ICC also serves to facilitate training of member countries on relevant aspects of coconut development. Presently ICC has 19 member countries which including 7 countries in Asia namely India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, 10 Pacific countries: Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands Timor Leste, Tonga, Vanuatu one African country (Kenya) and one Caribbean country (Jamaica). ICC member countries account for 85-90 percent of global production of coconut. Dr. Jelfina further added that from January 2020 Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) has become a major program of the ICC. COGENT is involved in the collection, conservation and analysis of coconut germplasm. She believes that cogent’s inclusion in ICC helps and contribute more to increase ICC’s role in the development of coconut industry globally.
Prof. Lucia C. Mandey from Sam Ratulangi University said VCO contains lauric acid, capric acid and their monoglycerides (monolaurin and monocaprin) which have antiviral properties and have shown promising measure against a number of diseases such as influenza, HIV/ AIDS, Alzheimer’s and diabetics. She concluded that “Sam Ratulangi University is developing suitable production technology that can helps to preserve the good elements in the VCO,” which is necessary to protect the properties of VCO.