MORE COCONUT INVESTMENT SOUGHT
Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap called for more investments in the coconut industry amid the prevailing high prices for copra.
Mr. Yap told over 100 coconut farmer group leaders, traders, millers and processors who gathered here on Friday last week for the Eastern Visayas' First Regional Coco Summit that the government will lease out some state-run oil mills to the private sector this year. He did not elaborate on which mills are involved.
"Government must steadily get out of business," he said.
Copra production has been declining since 2005, Mr. Yap said. The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) reported that copra production decreased 6.7% in 2006 and further by 11.3% to 2.35 million metric tons last year.
Copra exports have also declined. Nearly 70%, or 1.6 million metric tons, of last year's output was exported. This was 20% lower than the 2006 exports and 25% lower than the 2005 figures.
Mr. Yap said there's a need to improve productivity to cope with competition posed by palm oil producers in other countries. Palm oil has been eating into coconut oil's world market share, he added.
"With the very good copra price, we cannot lose the coconut industry. Palm oil from other countries has been eating up our share [in the world market]. There's need to increase our raw output and support the private sector, especially in processing," Mr. Yap said in his keynote speech in the summit.
PCA Deputy Administrator Carlos B. Carpio said the government has embarked on a four-year production program up to 2012 to make up for production losses due to typhoons in the last two years and ensure supply for domestic and international markets, including biofuel requirements. Some P1.89 billion was earmarked this year to implement massive replanting, salt fertilization and disease eradication.
The PCA has projected a 5.7% growth in copra output this year as the coconut industry recovers form the calamities that hit the farms. Under the four year production plan, the PCA targets to increase copra production to 3.07 million metric tons in 2010 and further to 3.5 million metric tons in 2012.
Mr. Yap said the Philippines remains the second largest producer of coconut products after Indonesia. Eastern Visayas is one of the tops three centers of coconut production, aside from Bicol and Southern Tagalog.
Aside from copra, the Philippines also exports desiccated coconut. The PCA reported that, last year, the export value of desiccated coconut climbed 14% to $1.46 million despite a 4% reduction in volume. The United States remained the top export market for desiccated coconut, followed by the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Korea, France and Germany.
Coconut farmer Edilberto Hinay, who attended the summit, lamented that he has never received any form of state assistance. "Some have received salt fertilizers, but they were not well-informed of the proper application. Sometimes the programs turn out to be a waste of resources," he said.
September 1, 2008