BY TINA GANZON CORRESPONDENT
LUCENA CITY, Quezon: Increased domestic consumption of coconut products can be the key to tow the coconut industry out of the doldrums, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
With the world market price stuck at P18 a kilo of copra in the last two years compared to P60 per kilo in 2010, coconut farmers are unsure of the industry’s growth, cited Alejandro Olaguera, OIC regional manager of PCA-Region 4A, as he pointed to an ongoing campaign to encourage local farmers to develop new products for the domestic market.
“These days, a few have already ventured into production of other coco products aside from copra and coconut oil, say coco sugar and coco water for local consumption,” Olaguera said.
Coconut remains as the permanent dominant crop in the Southern Tagalog Region, but only 20 percent of local produce is consumed domestically; 80 percent are exported to various countries and rely on world market price.
Olaguera added that coco sugar has the highest success rate among the newly developed by product of coconut.
Based on PCA data, Calabarzon is still the largest contributor to the country’s coconut industry with over 529,781 hectares of land used as coconut farms and 30 percent of the population relying on the coconut industry for livelihood.
“Ninety percent of the region’s coconut farms are operated by growers in the province of Quezon, still the country’s leading coconut producer,” Olaguera explained.
PCA records show that in 2012, the value of coconut exports dropped to P540 million from P960 million in 2011, a decrease of over 21 percent, because of depleted prices.
According to the preliminary data of United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (UCAP), 2013 is off to a good start on Philippine export of coconut products. It grew by almost 150 percent year on year in copra terms—the highest figure recorded since 2006.
“This is why farmers in the region have started venturing into a multi-story cropping system,” Olaguera added.
Ruth Avila, chairman of the Coconut Council in Candelaria town, expressed the same sentiment: “Owing to too low prices, we cannot depend solely on coconuts as cash crop. We need to intercrop coconut lands with other crops like bananas, coffee, citron, and others”.
“Multi-cropping also helps coconut farmers curb scale insect infestation compared to monocrop farms that are more prone to such,” she added.
Early this year, 50-70 percent of coconut farms in the province of Batangas were infested by scale insects. 20 percent of farms in Laguna and 10 percent in Cavite suffered the same fate. PCA said with continuing treatment the infestation is now contained.
“It will take 2-3 years to recuperate so we had to offer alternative livelihood program,” said Olaguera.
He also said he is confident that the industry’s rehabilitation will go full blast during the Aquino administration with a record-high budget allocated to PCA from P539 million in 2011, P1.18 billion in 2012 to P1.73 billion in 2013.
The PCA will focus on fertilizing and replacing coconut trees by working with local farmers and community based organizations to compliment the poverty alleviation program of the national government.