We see them along our beachfronts and in many streets and gardens, but the iconic palm tree may soon have a new place in the Queensland lifestyle as a high quality building product.

Research conducted by the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI&F) has found that Cocowood, produced from coconut palm tree trunks, is suitable for use as high value flooring, bench tops, kitchen cabinets and furniture. 

DPI&F senior technician Gary Hopewell said the latest findings from the three year $520,000 Cocowood project showed that processed coconut palm wood was actually superior to many other commercially available timbers. 

”A number of Australian flooring product manufacturers are evaluating the material for their domestic manufacturing operations,” he said. 

“Timber industry representatives from Australia, Fiji and Samoa, including flooring market and production specialists and potential suppliers and processors, are studying drying and processing technologies to ensure strict quality control of the product. 

“Even medium density palm logs can be processed to make attractive veneers and plywood.

“The positive results achieved to date support development of palm stem processing in Pacific island countries of origin, with valued added flooring and other products produced in Australia.” 

Many Pacific island nations including Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu have large but ageing coconut palm plantations, where there is declining coconut and copra crop production. 

Mr Hopewell said the project was looking at opportunities to use these plantations to generate new timber industries, and create new Australian export and consumer markets, while providing a new source of income for Pacific island peoples from a locally available resource. 

“With strong demand for flooring products in Asia, America and Europe, Cocowood products could be very lucrative for Queensland and our Pacific neighbours,” he said. 

“By developing a Cocowood industry to provide a range of timber products, we could help reduce the demand for timber from old growth forests in Pacific island nations.” 

This year the project enters a new stage with the further refinement of Cocowood processing for commercialisation and entry to domestic and international markets. 

The Cocowood project is co-funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural research (ACIAR). DPI&F is a partner agency with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Fiji Coconut Industry Development Authority, (CIDA), Fiji Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, Samoan Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment and Strickland Brothers, Samoa.