AS the demand for coconut-based products like virgin coconut oil (VCO) remain high, the United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (Ucap) urged the government to intensively invest in product research.

Ucap assured the country’s 3.5 million coconut farmers and makers of VCO and other processed coconut products of the huge market, not only in the domestic scene but also globally.

Ucap chairman Dean Lao, in a statement, said the US in particular continues to rave over coconut and its health benefits.

“America still loves our coconuts,” he said, amid the recent claim by the American Heart Association (AHA) that the oil is unhealthy.

Ucap data shows that coconut exports stood at $1.132 billion from January to June this year, nearly double the $636 million export for all products in the same period in 2016.

Scientific studies have linked medium chain fatty acid (MCFA) content in coconut oil to fewer incidence of cardiovascular disease in studied populations.

MCFA is also widely recognized as a major ingredient in the energy-boosting ketogenic diet.

Ucap said it will carry out more programs to attest to authorities scientific proof of coconut oil’s nutritional benefits.

However, it noted the need for further product research and development so the country could generate more income and boost the livelihood of coconut farmers and processors. In Southeast Asia, Thailand leads in coconut product innovation.

Ucap said other uses of coconut are personal care, petroleum-free consumer products, low-sugar beverages, probiotic-low carbohydrate products, refrigerated coconut in its entire nut with trimmed husk, marshmallow with coconut, coconut granola, virgin coconut oil in its buttery form for cooking or baking, cooking spray coconut oil, and coconut milk creamer.

The Philippines dominates the world as one of the biggest, if not the biggest, supplier of coconuts.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) earlier revealed that the coconut industry is showing signs of resurgence.

PCA Administrator Romulo de la Rosa, in a statement, said that trade in coconut products, once considered a “sunset industry,” is picking up both in the domestic and international markets.

“It’s no longer just for coco water, activated carbon from coco shell, and geo-textiles from coco coir are also expanding,” he said.

The Philippines saw a 93.86-percent growth in the volume of coco oil exports since 2016.

Data from the PCA for January to May also shows growth in exports of non-traditional products such as hydrogenated coconut oil, coconut chips, bukayo, and coconut sugar.

De la Rosa added that the country has also captured new markets in China and Russia through President Rodrigo Duterte’s diplomatic initiatives.

PCA and regional intergovernmental body, the Asia Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), have launched campaigns to address AHA’s claim, clarifying that the latter’s position is “unfounded, specious and unfair.”