Your Coconut Latte Habit Is Ruining the Environment

Bad weather, disease, and neglect mean that Caribbean coconut farmers are struggling to keep up with demand from Britain and the US.
September 12, 2016, 1:00pm

Next time you order a coconut milk latte or get sucked into thinking you'll look like Rihanna after downing a pint of coconut water, savour it. It could be one of your last beverages to contain the hairy fruit—or one from the Caribbean, at least.

Figures from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation show that yields from Caribbean coconut plantations have decreased by 17 percent since 1994. Compton Paul of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) made it pretty clear when he spoke to Bloomburg last week: "It's fair to say that at this pace, the Caribbean is running out of coconuts."

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Farms on islands around the Caribbean Sea have suffered storms, droughts, and Lethal Yellowing disease in recent months, all of which have destroyed coconut crops. CARDI also highlights a lack of investment from farmers in new trees and fertilisers as other reasons for poor yields.

Bloomberg's report claims that in areas like the Dominican Republic, production has fallen by 60 percent in two decades which, coupled with a bigger demand for coconut products (in the UK alone, increased sales of coconut milk, water, and oil have turned the fruit into a multi-million pound industry in the last three years) is putting pressure on farmers.

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A Caribbean coconut grower and exporter, Dioni Siri, told Bloomberg that as the demand for coconuts increases, fruit is being picked too early and the standard is also falling: "It's not good enough. Our biggest problem is that the farmers aren't growing enough quality coconuts."

Next time you grab a morning coffee, maybe plump for good old cow's milk instead.