A coconut plantation on Koh Samui in southern Thailand. Photo: AFP
A coconut plantation on Koh Samui in southern Thailand. Photo: AFP

Thailand’s Department of Foreign Trade plans to blacklist 10 companies if they fail to clarify the numbers of coconuts they have recently imported.

Many Thai factories have been buying imported coconuts instead of using locally grown ones stored in warehouses, which has resulted in a large amount of unsold fruit.

The middleman-run warehouses have been facing huge loses after stocking large numbers of coconuts in their warehouses and not being able to sell them. With a large supply of coconuts and few buyers, debts are also mounting for farmers and suppliers.

To make matters worse in the industry, the retail price of coconuts in Thailand has decreased dramatically. 

The situation and flood of complaints has led Adol Chothinisakorn, the General Director of the Department of Foreign Trade, to insist that private companies seek permission to import coconuts under the Asean Free Trade Area, or AFTA, agreement. 

Ten of the 20 companies being checked by authorities could not clarify the number of coconuts they had imported and now face being blacklisted. 

For the past eight months, the amount of imported coconuts under AFTA had decreased by 27%, which amounted to a total of 167,723 tons. This should have resulted in an increase in the price of coconuts in Thailand, but the price has not changed.

Adol blamed illegal imports. New measure aimed at helping the industry will be presented on October 18 by Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. 

Somkiet Laonark, the Associate President of the Coconut Farmers association in Chumphon, said the price of coconuts was now lower than the cost of growing them. The price per coconut was about 1-2 baht each, depending on size, he said.

Officials representing growers, factory owners and producers of coconut-related products have asked the government to find a way to help the industry and use measures that do not go against World Trade Organization rules.