Fatima Pereira, Corlim, runs a successful home enterprise selling virgin coconut oil, a premium product of today’s times, discovers Shoma Patnaik
Virgin coconut oil is the latest fancy of today’s lifestyle conscious consumer. It is the hottest trend in the wellness industry for its health benefits and also because of the current obsession with everything pure and natural. While coconut oil in the market sells at anything between Rs 375-Rs 400 per litre, virgin coconut oil sells at nearly three times the price, about Rs 1,200 per litre.
Goa with its natural landscape of swaying palm trees could be a natural hub of virgin coconut oil. But unfortunately according to the Krishi Vigyan Kendra- ICAR, Ela, Old Goa, that is trying to popularize the technology there are just three local entrepreneurs who have taken on the production of virgin coconut oil as an economic activity.
Residing in the interiors of Corlim village, Fatima Pereira, runs a successful home enterprise selling virgin coconut oil. She started the business in 2014 and today is eager to expand and step into value addition. Pereira’s home enterprise is a part of her household with the coconut scrapping machine, the appliance to boil the coconut milk and the presser placed near the kitchen. There are mounds of coconuts- shelled and unshelled, heaped in corners. The enterprise looks very basic but it is quite successful as it caters to a niche segment for which the demand is up and growing.
“I started manufacturing virgin coconut oil in 2014 after attending the KVK course and first trying it at a very rudimentary level by scrapping coconuts by hand and going through the tedious process of making the oil, she says, adding that, the turning point came after an exhibition in Margao. “I discovered buyers snapping up my product as the significance of virgin coconut oil had already spread among Goans.”
Soon she received offers to retail her products in shops and currently she sells through two pharmacies- the Hindu Pharmacy and the Miramar Pharmacy, both in Panaji. “I started with making few bottles of virgin coconut oil and today we make 60 litres per month,” she says. While the oil in the pharmacies are re-branded and sold under a different name, Pereira also sell through her own brand ‘Vita’ which is sold at Rs 900 per litre.
Virgin coconut oil is a superior quality product and the profit margin on it is wholesome, she says. Pereira’s home enterprise is supported by her husband, Franklin Pereira and daughter Lisa, who is still in school. Hubby adds that, if the manufacture of virgin coconut oil had not been remunerative the duo would have continued with it for four years.
“Making the oil is viable and can be easily taken up as a sustainable business, “he says. The couple source their coconuts from their own farm at Pilar and also purchase it locally. About 50 per cent of the requirement are sourced from the farm and remaining 50 per cent is purchased. In a month, the Pereira’s use about 2,000 fresh coconuts per month, they reveal.
Fatma, says that, labour is the main constraint for stepping up production and she is on the lookout for helpers to do the arduous work of cleaning and scrapping each day. “My future plans are to go in for making soaps and also increase the sale under my own brand.” She says that, talks are on with Goa Bagayatdar where she is eager to retail under her Vita brand. Her immediate plan is to increase production to 100 litres per month from the current 60 litres per month.
Like all woman entrepreneurs, she says that, she works long hours. “On most days I wake up at 5 in the morning to get a head start on the scrapping work which is the most tedious part of the whole process,” she says.
The coconut is a versatile fruit, and husband Franklin points out that, each part of it can be utilized productively. “The powder produced during scrapping is used to make compost and as peat while the squeezed out dry coconut can be used to make cake,” he says. In fact. A small scoop of the dry coconut residue tastes yummy. It has a natural sweetness to it and is smooth on the tongue.
The earnings from virgin coconut oil is handsome: KVK
Known to be the mother of all oils, coconut oil is making a huge comeback in demand in India. And with it the demand for virgin coconut oil is robust. According to Sunetra Talulikar, specialist home science, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK-ICAR) the popularity of virgin coconut oil is soaring by the day. “There are a lot of health benefits of virgin coconut oil made from fresh coconut meat without chemical process,” she says.
Talaulikar adds that, virgin coconut oil has 50 per cent of lauric acid that is globally recognized for its immunity properties. Unlike regular coconut oil that is made from dried nuts, virgin oil is made from freshly grated coconuts and from coconut milk. There are two methods of preparing it- hot pressed and cold-pressed, of which the KVK promotes the hot process because it does not result in loss of vitamins as a finished product. Hot-pressed virgin coconut oil is also considered as more viable as the oil loses all its rancidity and can last for more than a year. “The moisture from hot-pressed virgin coconut oil is brought down to 0.1 per cent and the oil is virtually colourless,” explains Talaulikar.
To popularize virgin coconut oil technology, the KVK has set up a demo unit at a cost of Rs 20 lakhs. The demo unit has modern machinery including, a de-sheller, testa remover, pulverizer, dryer, a cooker and milk expeller. The unit during its course of workshops makes about 30 litres of virgin coconut oil which is sold at the Ela farm premises.