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Finding a Fine Coconut Balance

A lot of our neighbors remember a time when one coconut cost only a baht (฿1), or roughly $0.03 USD, literally for a few pennies. Even with domestic demand for coconut milk and coconut meat used in Thai cuisine, abundance kept the cost of this raw ingredient relatively low to the general rise in consumer prices. Sold by the truckloads at harvest time, it was still a good supplement to the small farmer’s income. With the increasing demand for coconut-derived products such as coconut oil, coconut water, and coconut milk, our coconuts have doubled, tripled, and sometimes quadrupled in price over the last few years.

Even thought it has translated to an increase in income, we at Nana also try to make sure that there is enough mature coconuts, from which coconut milk is made and an essential ingredient in Thai cuisine – from spicy curries and creamy soups to sweet desserts – is still available to our mom-and-pop restaurants, street food vendors, and households. It takes approximately 6,000 coconuts to yield 900 liters (230 gallons) of coconut milk or cream, from which only 360 liters of coconut oil is extracted. Domestic demand alone for coconut milk used for cooking is approximately 150 tons a day. That’s a lot of coconuts.

Unlike a handful of long-established and large food manufacturers that require hundreds of thousands of coconuts per day to maximize their processing equipment and production lines, and may often times import coconuts from other countries, we luckily belong to a network of small farms close to home that are more than happy to provide us with the same quality coconuts we grow because they know we have their best interests in mind. There should always be enough locally made coconut milk for the elderly auntie to make her homemade “haw moek” (fish curry mousse) that she sells on the side of the road. So don’t be surprised or alarmed if at times you find we have a coconut-related product out of stock. You might have to wait for an upcoming harvest, but be glad that we’re also looking out for our local families.