The Department of Agriculture (DA) urged coconut farmers to take part in the consultation process on the utilization of the coconut levy fund.
In his welcome address during the Second National Coconut Farmers’ Conference (NCFC), Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala reiterated the agreement made during the 2012 NCFC, where coconut farmers then agreed to maintain the coconut levy as a trust fund, and to spend only the fund’s interest earnings. To recall, Alcala slammed the proposal by several coconut farmers group to start the “direct cash distribution” of the shares of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Coangco in United Coconut Planters Banks (UCPB).
“It should be a perpetual fund to be used for the benefit of the coconut farmers,” he said. To effectively use the earnings, Alcala challenged the coco growers to appropriate the fund for projects aimed at developing the coconut industry, and raising the income of the small coconut farmers.
The DA chief also encouraged coconut farmers to produce nonconventional products. “Aside from copra and crude coconut oil processing, you may want to try other value-adding processes under the Bukod-Kopra and Fresco programs which produce virgin coconut oil and coconut skimmed milk,” he said.
Bukod-Kopra is a strategy that uses other resources in coconut farms, while Fresco is a noncopra industry that uses fresh mature coconut as raw material for interlinked processes that produce a variety of by-products. Alcala also challenged coconut farmers to create programs and form groups that will oversee the establishment of village level coconut processing plants as part of the planned agro-industrial hubs.
He also asked them to help identify strategic areas where farmers’ associations can partner with local government units and nongovernment organizations, in the construction and operation of processing plants as well as marketing of coco products.
“Even as coconut oil remains to be one of the country’s major export commodities. We need to deviate from it and produce high-value products. This is the change that our hubs want to initiate,” Alcala said.
The Second National Coconut Farmers’ Conference was organized by the Coconut Industry Reform Movement led by Oscar Santos, in collaboration with the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Project Management Office for the Coconut Integrated Development Roadmap led by Ed dela Torre.
The coco levy fund is composed of P56.54 billion held by the Bureau of Treasury, and P14 billion representing cash dividends on the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Block of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) shares, which are deposited in escrow with the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB).