Goya, a small village in central Goa state, is the world’s largest producer of coconut oil, the primary ingredient in vegan condiment, according to the International Coconut Organization.
Its production is valued at $9 billion a year.
But in recent years, Goa’s coconut production has dropped dramatically, due in part to the increasing popularity of animal products in its cuisine, said Misha Thampu, a Goa-based coconut oil specialist.
“We have been working hard on getting the market back on track,” Thampo said.
In 2016, Goans became the first country in the world to ban all animal products, and it has recently introduced a ban on all palm oil and palm oil derivatives.
Thampoo said Goa and other parts of India were now working on a solution to this problem, although it remains unclear if the new policy will be in place until 2021.
“It’s a complex issue, but we’re going to try and find the right solution,” Thampsu said.
Goa has a large population of coconut-growing indigenous people, but many Goans still prefer coconut products over soy, which is grown in Brazil and India.
Thampsoo said the country was also working on developing a vegetable oil substitute to replace the coconut oil used in Goa condiments.
A similar situation exists in India, where consumers prefer vegetable oil substitutes over coconut oil because it is cheaper and more nutritious.
The vegetable oil is often sold as a byproduct of animal production, which can also lead to pollution, Thampso said, and there are concerns about the impact of the oil on the environment.
Goas are also among the top consumers of vegan condimental products in the United States, and the country is expected to overtake the U.S. as the top consumer of vegan products in 2021.
Goans have a long history of being active in the global food movement, with a focus on organic food and farming practices, according a 2016 article in The Huffington Post.
Goan coconut oil is one of the most popular and widely consumed vegan condis, Thampoos said.
The coconut oil has a rich taste, and its flavor is so distinctive that it can be mistaken for soy sauce or coconut milk, Thampingoo said.
It is not uncommon to see Goans buy coconut oil at local markets.
The condiment is also widely available in Goan supermarkets, where the price can be higher than what you might pay for a vegan condi, she said.
“If you are in a supermarket, there is probably a Goan-made coconut oil somewhere in the fridge,” Thampingo said of Goans who are also avid consumers of coconut products.
Goalas may be able to save money by switching to organic coconut oil substitutes, but Thampos worries that the demand for vegan condins may increase in the future.
“I think Goa is just catching up with India,” she said, noting that Goa had a large number of coconut trees growing in the area.
“There is a lot of pressure for sustainable food production in India and Goa.
Goals goal is to make coconut a part of Goa culture, and I’m sure we can do that.”
This article originally appeared on FourFourSecond.