PH can earn up to $6B in coco exports
The country’s coconut industry can be the agriculture sector’s saving grace, as it has the potential to earn up to $6 billion in exports annually, benefiting millions of small, marginal farm families.
“The coconut industry’s vast potential to earn more has never been tapped because of numerous issues bugging the industry,” said former agriculture secretary William D. Dar.
In 2016, the country earned $2 billion from exports of coconut products, mainly coconut oil (CNO), 80 percent of which goes to Europe and the US, according to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP). CNO is a major ingredient in various food, cosmetics and energy-related products.
Dar said it is possible to triple the country’s revenue from coconut exports by simply increasing the productivity of coconut trees to 150 nuts per year using dwarf hybrids developed by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), adding that hybrids start bearing fruits in three to four years versus seven years for tall traditional varieties.
“Our current yield of 46 nuts per tree yearly is ridiculously low, considering that in India, the average is five times over at 250, in Mexico 300, and in Brazil 400 nuts,” he added.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country has 3.565 million hectares, or 26 percent of total agricultural lands, planted to 339 million bearing coconut trees, tended by 3.4 million farmers, who are mostly poor.
“In all, we need science-based solutions to address low productivity, control pests and diseases, reduce post-harvest losses, create more value-added products, and integrate coconut farming with crops and livestock raising,” Dar said. “Efforts should start with soil mapping to determine the coconut farm’s nutrient deficiencies and employ corrective measures to optimize productivity,” Dar said.
Alongside R&D efforts, he said government and the private sector, including LGUs, should establish coconut processing centers and post-harvest facilities, construct more farm-to-market roads and irrigation systems, provide farmers with effective and efficient extension service, including accessible credit and crop insurance.
The power of information and communication technology (ICT) should also be enhanced to improve production and delivery systems.