Whole and split coconut
Coconuts from the Caribbean are about to be much harder to come by. DEA / STECIA—Getty Images

A Major Coconut Shortage With Global Consequences May Hit the Caribbean

Sep 12, 2016

If you depend on trendy coconut water to stave off your morning hangovers, coconut oil to condition your hair, or coconut milk to flavor your lattes, you'll want to start stocking up now on your elixir of choice, because the Caribbean is facing a serious shortage of the popular tropical fruit.

An unfortunate trifecta of bad storms, problematic droughts, and an insect-borne fruit disease called "Lethal Yellowing" have all converged on the tropics to severely impact coconut farms' production capacity, as locally, prices are up and supply is limited Bloomberg reports. Caribbean plantations have already shrunk up to 17% since 1994, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization shared.

"It’s fair to say that at this pace, the Caribbean is running out of coconuts,” a coordinator of a Trinidadian coconut research program told Bloomberg.

This comes on the heels of a major boom in coconut consumption around the world. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matthew McConaughey have endorsed the benefits of coconut-based products, and brands like Starbucks, Vita Coco, and Trader Joe's are avidly catering to the growing demand for the "It" fruit. Coconut water alone is a nearly $4 billion industry, and the price of coconut oil has gone up about 50% since 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Outside of the Caribbean, coconut-producing regions like the Philippines and Indonesia are also struggling as they deal with the longterm consequences of natural disasters and demand that is outstripping the pace of coconut trees' growth.

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