Abrigo: Resuscitating the dying coconut industry

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IT’S summer! Many are wearing shirts printed with an island, a lonely coconut tree, and a partly hidden sun relaxing at the horizon. I wonder if the sun is setting down or a rising one.

Let me relate the scenery of the sun and the coconut which was once considered as a sunset industry after being plagued by cocolisap, damaged by typhoons Urduja and Vinta, and the sudden plunge of its buying price that affect 3.5 million coconut farmers.

The Philippines is among the biggest exporters of coconut oil in the world, you must know. But the fluctuation of the domestic buying price is dependent on the supply and demand in the world market of other oil sources like, palm, soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, and olive.

The world market at present dictates at US$623.50 per metric ton or around P32 per kilogram (kg). This is the very reason why the domestic buying price of copra plunks to P13/kg at the farm gate and P15/kg at the processing plants.

To rescue the offing industry, the Philippine Coconut Authority called the National Biofuels Board (NBB) in relation to the full implementation of the Biofuels Act of 2006 (RA 9367). The law sets to five percent blend, but the present blend of Coco Methyl Ester (CME) is only two percent and 98 percent regular diesel.

If the law is fully implemented, the country needs 489.8 million kilograms of copra per year and it will be a significant support to the farmers because the copra buying then will be at P30/kg.

In a study conducted by the Asian Institute of Petroleum Studies, Inc. (AIPSI), it shows that coco biodiesel is a superior biodiesel because of its wide boiling point range and will assure the country’s optimism for a clean air and cheaper fuel cost.

Forget the low buying price of copra and let us look on the brighter side of other edible value-adding products sourced out from the raw coconut instead of copra production.

The PCA encouraged coconut farmers to go into coconut-base manufacturing plant for bottled coconut water, coconut milk, virgin coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut sugar, desiccated coconut, activated carbon from coco shell, geo textiles from coco coir and many more.

For this program the Department of Agriculture is willing to lend up to P50 thousand under the Production Loan Easy Access for the coconut farmers and encouraged them to form associations or cooperatives to facilitate the grants.

While photo ops and pogi points for these programs are on, the coconut farmers are in a long queue and dying. How long will these farmers wait and hold before they can appreciate that the sun is indeed rising to the coconut industry in our islands? (abrigodann@gmail.com)


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