RMI’s bumper copra year

In this file photo from last year, copra from Mili is offloaded from a bum-bum boat at Uliga Dock for delivery by truck to the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority plant in Delap. Photo: Hilary Hosia.
In this file photo from last year, copra from Mili is offloaded from a bum-bum boat at Uliga Dock for delivery by truck to the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority plant in Delap. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

GIFF JOHNSON

From the time American administrators of the US Trust Territory government started keeping copra tonnage statistics in 1951, it took 20 years for copra production to break the 7,000-ton mark in one year.

That was 1970, when the “stars aligned” with copra making and shipping combining to produce the first-ever banner year for copra makers, with 7,348 tons recorded. It would be 25 years until copra makers and the pickup system managed to break the 7,000 mark again. It wasn’t until 1995 that copra makers set what remains the all-time record at 7,728 tons.

Although 7,000-plus tonnage years have multiplied in recent years, not one has come close to breaking the 1995 record. But the fiscal year just ended September 30 set the all-time mark for second-best year on record with 7,580 tons reported by the Tobolar Copra Processing Authority. This amount of copra at 60 cents per pound means that copra makers earned $9.1 million in FY2022.

Fiscal year 2022 looked to be one of the best opportunities to not only break the 27-year-old record but also break through the 8,000 ton ceiling. This was due to two quarters this past fiscal year with over 2,390 tons each, bringing the nine-month total to over 6,100 tons.

The Covid outbreak hit in early August, however, shutting down most shipping to outer islands for that month, with only one vessel bringing in copra. Shipping service resumed in September, but a month with little copra returned to the Majuro processing plant ended hope of a record-breaking fiscal year.

Still, FY2022 is the third year in the last four years with over-7,000 ton totals. The 2000s saw one 7,000-plus year (2008); the 2010s saw three years (2012, 2016 and 2019); and the 2020s have so far seen two of three years with 7,000-plus tonnage levels (2020 and 2022).

Not unsurprisingly, Arno Atoll generated the most copra in FY2022 — over 1,300 tons or nearly 20 percent of the country’s total tonnage of 7,580.

What is surprising is that Ailinglaplap and Mili atolls were virtually tied with about 900 tons each. While always a strong copra producing atoll, Mili has rarely risen to second place in production. The one-two leaders are nearly always Arno and Ailinglaplap.

Maloelap at over 600 tons and Wotje at nearly 500 tons rounded out the top five producing atolls for FY2022.

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