It's no secret that I love cooking and food. Being in the kitchen is my other favourite place besides the hot room. As I was opening with a can of coconut milk, I became saddened. Saddened at the fact that soon, the prices of a can of coconut milk is going to go up and the quality will go down. And more seriously, the production of coconuts will see (or already is seeing) a sharp rise in response to the higher demand brought on by the health craze over coconut water and coconut products in general.
Yes, I am very aware of the hypocrisy of where this is coming from. I, an Asian in Canada, is opening a can of coconut produced from Thailand. It may seem on the surface that I am no different than those who carry cases of coconut water on their way out of Whole Foods, that I am a willing participant in this international dance of supply and demand. Yes, I am guilty.
But while I am consumer of coconut products as warranted by my cultural culinary needs, my people's occasional stock and use of coconut milk is not what could lead to the possible ruin of coconut farms in the near future. I fear that the current craze over the health benefits of coconut will lead to really bad things. And the biggest consumers of this craze? The yoga/fitness/natural health industry.
Here's a snapshot: Multinational corporations, after seeing the demand for coconut water, will soon or have already bought out small local companies in order to increase efficiency, and of course, to cash in on the current health craze. Farming methods will change in order to produce more, similar to current milk and egg production (we all know how well criticized these are). This move will change the landscape of local economies, adding to the already long list of foreign ownership of once-local farms. It will increase the price of coconut and coconut products locally, hurting those who regularly use it in their cultural cuisines, while we, on this side of the world, are willingly pay up to $4 a can for coconut water. When the next superfood is 'discovered', this industry will be abandoned, causing major loss to local farmers and local economies. Similar to how the Peruvians can no longer afford their local quinoa, the coconut producers will soon be this way too.
Over the course of 3 years, the price of a can of coconut milk has increased (inflation put into consideration), as well as the coconut juice that my mom has been buying for us since we were kids. These aren't of any special quality either, just your typical Asian fruit beverage health snobs wouldn't even touch. But now, I'm seeing them more and more in grocery stores at an alarming rate. It doesn't seem normal to have THAT much coconut juice that people ignored for 20 yrs before.
I might have a can between classes and teaching when eating is not possible or when I'm desperate, but generally, I realized that I have subconsciously prevented myself from drinking coconut water. I enjoy coconut differently than the typical drinker today. I enjoy it because I grew up with it. A lot of our cultural foods use it not solely because of its health benefits (which, btw, have been discovered long time ago by indigenous tribes), but because it was local and accessible. I enjoy it because it reminds me of home, of my grandma's desserts, of the oils that waft through my mama's kitchen. Not because my health will suddenly improve or that it suits the cleanse I am on or that they supplied it in cases during yoga teacher training.
Let's help maintain a healthy system for coconut production. To my fellow yogis, please think about your karma yoga when you buy that can of coconut water. Because, despite what you read about, once that coconut water is canned, most of its nutritional value is diminished. And you just spent $4 for it.