The Coconut Wood Opportunity – 7.4 Million new homes in Asia Pacific?

10 November 17
3 responses

Impact investment is necessary to enable productive use of the Coconut Wood [COCOWOOD] resource and contribute to better employment, and additional income for the coconut smallholders and overall economic development in coconut growing countries.

The whole Asia-Pacific region has an estimated number of senile coconut trees of about 371.3 million or 111.4 million cubic meters of sawn coconut wood.

This coconut wood supply level would be enough to build a total of 7.4 million housing units depending the magnitude of the replanting and coconut cutting programmes of the coconut producing countries in the region. These must be adequate incentives for coconut cutting/replanting in terms of income derived from the sale of logs, government and private sector assistance in actual logging operation and subsidies for the new planting of high yielding coconut varieties and hybrids.


Extracts for this blog post have been taken from the following studies;

FAO: ASIA-PACIFIC FORESTRY SECTOR OUTLOOK STUDY WORKING PAPER SERIES Working Paper No: APFSOS/WP/23 ASIA PACIFIC FORESTRY SECTOR OUTLOOK: FOCUS ON COCONUT WOOD By Romulo N. Arancon, Jr. Assistant Director Asian and Pacific Coconut Community Forestry Policy and Planning Division, Rome Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok. October 1997, FAO: NON-FOREST TREE PLANTATIONS Based on the work of W. Killmann, Director, Forest Products Division Forestry Department, FAO, Rome Italy, Edited by D. J. Mead April 2001

The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is one of the most important crops in the tropics. Practically all parts of the coconut can be manufactured into commercial products. The coconut provides food, shelter and fuel especially in countries in Asia and the Pacific where it is abundantly grown.

Unlike the many uses of the coconut fruits and the leaves, the coconut stem is equally useful. The possibility of utilizing the coconut palm wood on a commercial scale must be recognised as an impactful investment.

The opportunity to look for non-forest or indigenous wood material and to conserve natural forests in countries where the coconut palm is grown, could led to a serious consideration of the many uses of the coconut tree.

The huge number of old and senile palms in coconut growing countries, especially in Asia and the Pacific, necessities urgent large-scale replanting. In some countries, the occurrence of strong hurricanes usually fells thousands if not millions of coconut trees on a yearly basis. It has been widely recognized that the most effective way of disposing the felled trunks is to convert them to saleable wood products.

The “coconut wood area” in the Asia and Pacific region is the estimated coconut area with senile palms as well as the estimated number of senile trees and the projected number of senile trees available for cutting up to year 2015.

Indonesia and the Philippines followed by India, Papua New Guinea and Thailand have large areas with senile palms which are no longer productive and are due for cutting or replanting. Indonesia as well as some of the Pacific Islands (Fiji, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu) have 50 to 60% of their coconut area with over-aged or senile palms. Among the Pacific countries, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji have quite large numbers of coconut trees that need replanting with much trees that could be processed into coconut wood.

With Indonesia’s estimate of about 50% over-aged palms, the country has a coconut wood resource of approximately 185.6 million senile trees which could be cut down and replaced with hybrids and other high yielding varieties.

Based on a sawn lumber recovery of 0.30 cubic meter per tree, around 55.7 million cubic meters of sawn wood are available for economic utilization in the coconut wood area. Assuming that the sawn lumber shall be used for the construction of a typical 60- square meter, 2-bedroom low cost house with a lumber requirement of 15 cubic meters per house, a total of 3.71 million housing units could be constructed out of these wood materials.

A COCOWOOD resource assessment can be done by estimation of the percentage area considered senile, the tree population per hectare, the replanting or felling rate per year and the wood volume per tree.

Since coconut is basically a smallholder’s crop, adequate incentives from government and appropriate policies on cutting and replanting senile and unproductive coconut trees must be in place. To make the resource available, coconut smallholders must be motivated to cut and replant senile trees, given the necessary incentives, policy support end the required facilities and infrastructure.

Impact investment is necessary to enable productive use of this COCOWOOD resource and contribute to better employment, and additional income for the coconut smallholders and overall economic development in coconut growing countries.

The whole Asia-Pacific region has an estimated number of senile coconut trees of about 371.3 million or 111.4 million cubic meters of sawn coconut wood.

This coconut wood supply level would be enough to build a total of 7.4 million housing units depending the magnitude of the replanting and coconut cutting programmes of the coconut producing countries in the region. These must be adequate incentives for coconut cutting/replanting in terms of income derived from the sale of logs, government and private sector assistance in actual logging operation and subsidies for the new planting of high yielding coconut varieties and hybrids.


Uses of COCOWOOD and potential markets

One of primary uses of coconut timber is for building construction.

Coconut timber is suitable for housing components like trusses, purlins, walls, joists, doors, window frames and jalousies.

Low-density coconut wood from the centre of the stem should be used only in non-load structures like walls and panels while high density coconut wood can be used for load-bearing structures like trusses and joints.

High-density coconut wood could also be used as posts, power and telecommunication poles, trusses, floor tiles (parquet), girts, floor joists, purlins, balustrades and railings and other load bearing structures.

Coconut wood can be a promising material for the manufacture of furniture, novelties and other handicrafts due to its beautiful grain and attractive natural appearance. High value coconut wood products which include furniture, decorative interior walls, parquet floors, various craft items.



Coconut trunk and other sawmill residues are readily usable for charcoal making and for the production of energy. Coconut wood is similar to other woods in its characteristics as fuel, although the range of densities within the stem leads to variation in the energy potential. Charcoal and charcoal briquettes have higher heating value. They are easily handled and produce less smoke compared to wood. For fuel purposes, coconut trunk charcoal must be converted into briquettes to increase its strength and density as well as to improve its shipping properties.


Activated carbon

Can also be made from coconut trunk charcoal. The product can be a reliable source of carbon for the manufacture of various chemicals such as carbon disulphide, calcium carbide, silicon carbide, carbon monoxide, paint pigments, pharmaceuticals, moulding resins, black powder, electrodes, catalyst reactor, brake linings, and gas cylinder absorbent. Ethanol can also be produced from coconut waste products.



Coconut wood has proven to be comparable to conventional wood in terms of durability, sturdiness, and versatility often at a considerably lower cost.

The key to profitability in the utilization of coconut wood, given availability of raw material supply and product demand, is the mechanical conversion of coconut logs into lumber.

The mechanical methods of primary conversion of coconut logs into lumber are the chainsaw, the mounted portable and stationary sawmills. The preference of using chainsaw over mounted portable or stationary sawmills is its low investment cost and complete portability by a single operator. Mounted portable sawmills, although could be operated near the raw material source, require a number of personnel. The use of stationary sawmills or portable ones, although efficient in terms of lumber recovery, is as yet very limited because of prohibitive initial investment combined with the potential for irregularity of raw material supply.

The increasing trend of demand for coconut wood could very well follow the success achieved in the utilization and commercialization of rubberwood.

To sustain the utilization and commercialization of coconut wood, governments and private sector should consider the following:

  • ensure adequate raw material supply availability on a continuing and sustained basis;
  • maintain active research programme to overcome technical problems and expand product lines;
  • support the training of potential sawmillers and other users to build confidence in the material and create a critical mass of investors and entrepreneurs in the coconut wood industry;
  • support a private sector led promotional campaign to convince all players in the industry and its potential users and consumers on the versatility of coconut wood.



The coconut palm is a monocotyledon; it has an erect pole-like stem and symmetrical crown; the trunk is 30-40 cm in diameter sometimes reaching a meter at the base. Once formed, it does not increase in diameter due to the absence of a cambium.

The slender and branchless trunk reaches a height of 20-25 meters or more. Tall coconut varieties take 3-4 years to develop a stem above the ground. It bears leaf scars showing the insertion of the fallen leaves. The distance between leaf scars indicates the rate of growth. Leaf scars are closely spaced at the top and at the bottom of the trunk but distantly spaced at the middle portion.

In cross-section, the coconut stem has three distinct zones, namely the dermal, sub-dermal and the central zones with the dermal as the most peripheral portion just below the cortex, the sub- dermal between the dermal and the central zone or core. Its main anatomical elements include the fibrovascular bundles, fibrous bundles and the ground tissue.

The fibrovascular bundles consist of phloem, xylem, axial parenchyma and thick-walled schlyrenchyma fibres. The latter element serves as the palm’s major mechanical support. The cell walls of the schlyrenchima fibres become progressively thicker from the centre to the cortex of the stem. The xylem is enveloped by parenchyma cells usually containing two wide vessels, a combination of wide and small vessels or clusters of several small and wide vessels.

The ground tissue is parenchymatous and its cell wall thickness decreases from cortex to the inner zone of the central cylinder.


Physical Properties

The physical properties of COCOWOOD depend largely on its density, moisture content and shrinkage.

The oven-dry weight-green volume or basic density of COCOWOOD decreases with increasing height of the stem and, at any given height, increases from the core to the cortex. In addition, the basic density at any particular height increases with the age of the palm. Overall, the basic density ranges from 100kg/m3 at the top core portion to 900 kg/m3 at bottom dermal portion of old coconut palms.

The moisture content is negatively correlated with the basic density, i.e. moisture content decreases with increasing basic density and vice versa. The amount of moisture in coconut stem increases with increasing stem height and decreases from the core to the cortex. The moisture content ranges from 50% at the bottom dermal portion to 400% at the top core portion of the stem.

The dimensional stability of the wood is determined by its shrinkage or swelling which accompanies a decrease or increase in moisture content below fibre saturation point.

Shrinkage and swelling cause drying defects such as checks and split. Unlike conventional wood where tangential shrinkage is almost twice the radial shrinkage, the tangential and radial shrinkage of COCOWOOD are not significantly different.


Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of coconut which define its end use are positively correlated with the basic density. As a result, COCOWOOD has been classified according to three basic density groups as follows: High density wood (dermal) 600 kg/m3 and above, medium density wood (sub-dermal) 400 kg/m3 to 599 kg/m3, and low density wood (core), below 400 kg/m3.

All values of the strength properties decrease with decreasing basic density. Except for impact bending, the values of the other mechanical properties of COCOWOOD at 12% moisture content are significantly higher than in green condition.

The strength properties of high density COCOWOOD compare favourably with Dipterocarpus grandiflorus, Pentacme concorta, and Shorea polysperma which are commonly used as structural materials for building construction.

High density COCOWOOD almost exhibits superior strength properties over the aforementioned conventional wood except modulus of elasticity which shows lower strength values as far as compression parallel to grain is concerned.

The medium density COCOWOOD is comparable to Pentacme concorta in terms of modulus of rupture, stress at proportional limit and maximum crushing strength but it is slightly inferior in the rest of the properties. In contrast, the low density COCOWOOD cannot compare with these wood species hence, it should be used only for non-load bearing structures.


Chemical Properties

Coconut wood is comparable to Philippine hardwood/softwood and bamboo as far as holocellulose, lignin and pentosan content are concerned. However, it contains higher ash than Philippine woods. The proximate chemical composition of coconut wood are the following: hollocellulose (66.7%); lignin (25.1%) and pentosans (22.9%).


Utilization Technologies

Efficient processing and utilization of coconut trunks are aimed at solving technical and socio- economic problems especially when the coconut farmer decides to replant his senile palms. Being a monocotyledonous plant, its anatomical, physical, chemical and mechanical properties are different from the conventional woods. Hence, processing techniques and equipment including appropriate machinery have been developed, modified and improved to process cocowood more efficiently and produce comparatively good quality products.



The technology required for harvesting or logging coconut stems is almost the same as in traditional forest trees. However, the conveniently straight and branchless stems, and their nearly uniform volume and dimension allow the use of comparatively light and simple tools and transportation equipment. Logging operation in a coconut plantation is therefore easier and cheaper than logging under forestry conditions especially in mountains with steep terrain.



In sawing coconut logs, the most important factors in selecting the milling equipment are profitability and ability to be relocated if this is required; simplicity of design to avoid breakdowns which are difficult to repair in isolated situations; ease of operation as skills of operators will often be limited; an inexpensiveness as the industry is often situated in poorer and underdeveloped areas.

Different type of mills have been tested at the Zamboanga Research Centre in the Philippines and the Timber Industry Training Centre in New Zealand and information gathered could provide a guide to the selection of mills for different conditions.

These mills include the medium-size portable sawmill, a larger transportable sawmill, light/general purpose portable sawmill, a mini mill, a breast bench with light weight carriages and a chainsaw with guide attachments.

Problems of sawing coconut logs are similar to the ones encountered by sawmillers when using high density species of tropical hardwoods.



It has been established that no importer is prepared to make a commitment to purchase large volumes of coconut wood unless both quality of material and reliability of supply are guaranteed. Uniform grading standards for coconut wood are therefore highly desirable. A system of grading coconut wood and the mechanics of its implementation and control should be established in the producing countries. The mechanism for quality control should not restrict efficient management but should aim to protect and foster the interests of the country, the coconut wood industry, and its customers.

Quality control of coconut wood starts during the logging operation. Coconut wood should be graded hard, intermediate or soft, corresponding to high, medium and low density: high density is above 600 kg/m3; medium density between 400 and 600 kg/m3; and low density less than 400 kg/m3. Because of the widely varying density of material within each log, and the difficulty of differentiating these by superficial inspection after sawing, it is essential that a grading, sorting and identification system be established to track the wood from different parts of a log and from different logs along the length of a tree; this should start in the plantation at the time of felling. Systems of this sort have been designed and are implementable.



Another important phase in COCOWOOD utilization is machining or the process of cutting and milling the COCOWOOD into various shapes and patterns with the use of woodworking machines.


Seasoning and Drying

Coconut wood must also undergo seasoning process to minimize if not completely avoid problems in its utilization: the appropriate moisture content levels of coconut wood for various uses are as follows: furniture – 10 to 12%; flooring – 11 to 17%; framing timber – 15 to 18%; joinery – 12 to 16%; and weatherboards – 15 to 18%. The common drying methods include air drying wood under shed, forced-air, and kiln drying. Depending on existing conditions, 25mm and 50mm coconut boards take 4 to 11 weeks and 16 to 21 weeks to air dry, respectively to attain equilibrium moisture content of 17% to 19%. Drying schedules have been worked out (Tables 8 and 9) for kiln drying coconut wood to avoid drying defects such as collapse, twist, wrap and check.


Preservative Treatment

Coconut is not naturally durable when used in situations favourable to attack by decay fungi and wood boring insects particularly in ground contact and exposed to the weather. The low natural durability can be overcome by the application of suitable wood preservative treatment, for which appropriate prescriptions and dose rates have been developed. Choice of treatment depends on hazard level and cost which can be borne.

The treatment schedules of the different processes have been established for coconut wood through a series of laboratory experiments, field and service tests of treated materials.



Good quality finish for COCOWOOD involves sanding the surface to remove the knife marks and produce a smooth surface. The use of mechanical sanders instead of manual sanding facilitates finishing the surface of the wood.

Coating involves the sequence application of stain, filler, sealer and top coating materials such as lacquer, polyurethane, polyester and oil finish to enhance the natural beauty of the grain, colour and figure of COCOWOOD products. Usually two or more coats of finishes are applied to COCOWOOD to improve the appearance and quality of the wood products.




Technology Description

Lumber production from coconut trunk has been commercialized in the Philippines since early 1970’s. COCOWOOD is used for low-cost construction, furniture/handicraft, pallets, etc.

FPRDI studies show that coconut logs can be processed into lumber with different sawmilling equipment. One of the most efficient processing technique is the chainsaw-table saw lumbering system.

Round coconut trunks are sawn into halves or smaller dimensions as in flitches using a 10HP chainsaw at the cutting site. The flitches are transported to the lumber yard for resawing into desired dimension using a table saw.

The table saw may be stationary or mobile-type with 20 HP diesel engine. The sawblade is circular and the diameter is 510 millimetres.

The chainsaw-table saw lumbering system is designed for rural application. It involves relatively unskilled labour and the processing system may not be capital intensive. The lumber production per 8-hour operation is around 1,500 bd. R.

COCOWOD has a service life ranging from 4 (soft portion) to 18 months (hard portion) when used in contact with the ground. COCOWOOD is susceptible to decay-causing organisms such as fungus, termites and powder-post beetles.

Treatment of COCOWOOD by soaking for 3-6 days in 6% copper-chrome-arsenate (CCA) preservative provides adequate protection from fungal and insect attack. This treatment could extend the service life of COCOWOOD by ten times, thus, reducing maintenance cost for the end-users.


Outstanding Features Of The Technology

  • Chainsaw-table saw system requires lower investment cost and relatively unskilled labour compared to traditional sawmilling system.
  • The system entails higher lumber yield/quality and lower processing cost compared to pure chain-sawing operation, the table saw provides an efficient system for resawing the flitches into smaller lumber sizes.
  • Preservative treatment improves the durability and prolongs the service life of the COCOWOOD.
  • Production and utilization of COCOWOOD broadens the raw material base of the wood industry and reduces the pressure on the exploitation of timber from the forest.
  • COCOWOOD is 3 to 4 items cheaper than traditional lumber.



Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), 1995 – Proceedings of XXXIV COCOTECH Meeting, on Technology Transfer and Application in Relation to the Coconut Industry, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, pp. 119-143. Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), 1989 – CORD, Vol. V, No. 1, 80p. Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) , 1990, Proceedings of the Workshop on Coconut Wood Utilization for Policy Makers, 17-21 April 1990, Zamboanga City, Philippines, 170p. Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), 1991-1995 – Country Studies on the Coconut Industry, APCC Occasional Publication Series. Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), 1995 – Statistical Yearbook, 275p. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), 1995, Asia Pacific in Figures, 55pp. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 1985, Coconut Wood Processing and Use, FAO Forestry Paper No. 57. 58pp.

Food and Agriculture Organization/United Nations Development Programme/United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 1983. Regional Coconut Wood Utilization Programme (RAS-81-110). Training Hand-Outs on Coconut Wood Utilization- Managerial Training Course.

Forest Products Research and Development Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Philippines, 1988. Coconut Wood Utilization Research and development: The Philippine Experience, 127pp.Forest Products Research and Development Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Philippines, 1996. Proceedings of the Regional Experts’ Meeting on Coconut Wood Utilization, 1-7, February 1996. (Unpublished)Philippines Recommends for Coconut Timber Utilization, 1985. Philippine Council for Agriculture and Resources Research and Development. Technical Bulletin Series No. 60. 93pp. Asia Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook: Focus on Coconut Wood 36 R. Arancon, Jr.

List of Working Papers already released


Regional Study – The South Pacific Pacific Rim Demand and Supply Situation, Trends and Prospects: Implications for Forest Products Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region The Implications of the GATT Uruguay Round and other Trade Arrangements for the Asia-Pacific Forest Products Trade Status, Trends and Future Scenarios for Forest Conservation including Protected Areas in the Asia-Pacific Region. In-Depth Country Study – New Zealand. In-Depth Country Study. Republic of Korea. Country Report – Malaysia. Country Report – Union of Myanmar. Challenges and Opportunities: Policy options for the forestry sector in the Asia-Pacific Region. Sources of Non-wood Fibre for Paper, Board and Panels Production: Status, Trends and Prospects for India

Country Report – Pakistan. Trends and Outlook for Forest Products Consumption, Production and Trade in the Asia-Pacific Region. Country Report – Australia Country Report – China

Country Report – Japan: Basic Plan on Forest Resources and Long- Term Perspective on Demand and Supply of Important Forestry Products. Country Report – Sri Lanka. Forest Resources and Roundwood Supply in the Asia Pacific Countries: Situation and Outlook to Year 2010. Country Report – Cambodia. Wood Materials from Non-Forest Areas. Forest Industry Structure and the Evolution of Trade Flows in the Asia-Pacific Region – Scenarios to 2010. Decentralization and Devolution of Forest Management in Asia and the Pacific. Commentary on Forest Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region (A Review for Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua-New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand, And Western Samoa. Asia Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook: Focus On Coconut Wood

3 Responses to “The Coconut Wood Opportunity – 7.4 Million new homes in Asia Pacific?”

  1. Mark isenstadt

    Where in Thailand can i purchase sustainable coconut wood for flooring for homes and offices. Thank you


  2. Dear Friends<

    At first , thank you for the lack of information in your website , of your contribution through researches and coconut tree development,

    We are a small entrepreneur and manufacturer based in Indonesia Central Java and we using only coconut wood to make furniture and component ,

    may you help us for a techincal issue that we still do not understand about coconut wood process.
    We are trying to make smooth decking for outdoor but we still do not have the knowledge, In fact, after using our poor molding the lumber is still rough ( not Smooth as other wood) then each time we expose the wood outdoor under the natural UV all grain are opened again so it s become rough again.

    Thank you , and we are awaiting for your answer

    Best regards

    Dini Armiyanti


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