Coconut farms struggle to meet surging demand

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Coconut lovers, brace yourselves for some bad news: the Caribbean, which supplies most of the world's coconuts, is facing a shortage of the beloved fruit.

It could not happen at a worse time. Coconuts are more popular today than ever before.

Consumers use coconut oil for everything from skin lotion and hair conditioner to cooking oil, furniture and leather polish, and weight loss. Coconut milk is sold in grocery stores across the country as a popular alternative to cow or soy milk, and you can even request it in your favorite Starbucks drink.

Coconut water is the newest craze. Consumers can't seem to get enough of the low-calorie drink, which is packed with electrolytes and other antioxidants.

Unfortunately, with coconuts at peak demand, many coconut farms in the Caribbean are struggling, Bloomberg reports.

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"It's fair to say that at this pace, the Caribbean is running out of coconuts," Compton Paul, coordinator of a regional coconut program at the Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, tells Bloomberg.

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Caribbean coconut plantations have decreased by 17 percent since 1994. Production has plummeted. It seems a "coconut-tastrophe" is imminent. According to Bloomberg:

Storms, droughts and the Lethal Yellowing disease, spread by plant-hopping insects, have wiped out entire [coconut] farms; growers have failed to invest in new trees, or fertilizers to improve yields.

As the majority of the coconut crop is exported, local Caribbean people are often forced to pay more for what once was a cheap staple fruit.

Bloomberg notes that some companies have gone as far as to bottle phony coconut water and sell it to stores in Trinidad and Tobago. Health officials discovered the counterfeit drink and confiscated it.

Are you a coconut fan? What do you think of the coconut shortage? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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