Coconut product makers have reached an agreement with the government to voluntarily set up a system to allow products to be traced back to their origins to ensure they aren't made from produce picked by monkeys, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said yesterday.
The move followed a boycott of coconut products by several distributors in the UK, which was prompted by accusations made by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) activists that monkeys had been snatched from the wild and cruelly trained to pick coconuts as "coconut-picking machines".
Coconut product manufacturers have agreed to set up a traceability standard to allow importers, distributors and supermarkets to have access to information on coconut product production from the plantation to the shelves, said Mr Jurin after a meeting with Thailand's main coconut product makers.
"This is a voluntary measure, not something the government requires them to do as what happened isn't regarded as a trade barrier just yet," he said.
Kiatisak Theppadungporn, a board member of Theppadungporn Coconut Co, the manufacturer of Chaokoh coconut milk, said the coconut-picking controversy had cost the company 30% in reduced sales of coconut milk currently banned in two to three large supermarket chains in Britain. That was because the Chaokoh trademark was included in Peta's accusations, he said.
Theppadungporn Coconut has signed a memorandum of understanding with all 1,000 suppliers of coconuts to ensure only coconuts picked by humans are supplied to the company's factory, he said.
Thai coconut milk products have a market share of up to 80% in the UK and there are fears the controversy could spread to other countries in Europe.