Coconut exports may earn $6 billion annually

13 Sep 2017

The country’s coconut industry, albeit on a sluggish trend, could be the agriculture sector’s saving grace and could potentially earn up to $6 billion in exports annually if the government strengthens the implementation of hybrid technology in this sector.

Former agriculture secretary William D. 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).

Hybrids start bearing fruits in three to four years versus seven years for tall traditional varieties.

“It is high time the government invest billions of pesos from coconut levy funds to modernize the country’s coconut sector,” Dar said.

In 2016, the country earned only $2 billion from exports of coconut products, mainly coconut oil (CNO), 80 percent of which goes to Europe and the US. CNO is a major ingredient in various food, cosmetics and energy-related products.

“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,” Dar said.

“In fact, 300 nuts per year can be achieved in well-managed plantations by augmenting hybrid technology with good agricultural practices (GAP),” 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.

“Besides low yield and aging trees, the country’s coconut industry supply chain is largely made up of unorganized, small, marginal farmers who are inefficient and thus skew economies of scale regarding input supply, primary processing, marketing, and transport,” said Dar, who served for 15 years as director-general of the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“Hence, government and the private sector, including local government units, should get their acts together and focus on propping up the industry’s efficiency and competitiveness,” he added.

Dar said the government and coconut industry stakeholders should also neutralize market threats from tariff and non-tariff barriers such as minimum residue levels, labeling regulations, and misinformation on high cholesterol issues.

“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.

According to him, efforts should start with soil mapping to determine the coconut farm’s nutrient deficiencies and employ corrective measures to optimize productivity.

Alongside Research and Development efforts, he said the government and the private sector 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.

Dar added that agribusiness development should be strongly pursued, along with innovations to improve the productivity and global competitiveness of the country’s coconut industry.

This article orginally appeared at: http://business.mb.com.ph/2017/09/12/coconut-exports-may-earn-6-billion-annually/


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