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Davao City, Philippines

Scientist’s take on coconut production

September 09, 2019 - Monday 7:09 AM by Jimmy Laking

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When will the Department of Agriculture finally divert its attention to strengthening coconut production to improve the lives of farmers?

This has been a perennial question to be sure but it came with new urgency lately with the revitalization of the Philippine Coconut Authority and the assumption of Agriculture Secretary William Dar. 

It was first asked two years ago by Davao City-based inventor Virgilio Sugatan who has been exporting processed coconut products to South Korea for years now. 

In his estimate, the burden of improving coconut production lies with the DA considering its resources and infrastructure on the ground. He said the DA should actually channel more time and assistance to strengthen coconut production. 

The first in the list is to enable farmers to grow more high-yielding and fast-growing coconut trees.

“I have nothing against palm production but coconut production is already showing us the limitless opportunities that await producers and entrepreneurs,” he said. 

He said this is because coconut and its by-products are shaping up as prime export commodities for such countries like South Korea and Europe.

He cited the case of coconut virgin oil, a by-product of coconut, that has in fact earned a niche in the South Korean market as a base for its cosmetics industry.

“Activated carbon is also one by-product that is in demand abroad,” he said.

He said the baking industry and the soap-making industry rely heavily on coconuts as major component for their products.

At that time, Sagutan and a South Korean company have just signed a joint venture agreement for the operation of a plant in Carmen, Davao del Norte that would supply 20 tons of virgin coconut oil to Seoul.

He said that for this reason alone, coconut-producing areas should be encouraged to plant more coconut trees.

“But in addition to coconuts, farmers should be shown the way in practicing integrated farming by intercropping their coconuts with vegetables, root crops (especially yellow ginger), and fruit trees like coffee and cacao as well as bananas,” he said.

He said the vegetables and roots crops will bring instant income to farmers while the bananas and fruit trees will bring in additional income in between.

He said a sure-fire intercrop is the planting of calamansi as well as Malunggay (a source of moringa powder) that are also in demand in the export market.

“Farmers should not be left clueless on the opportunities and benefits that await them by increasing their coconut hectarage and practicing intercropping as well,” he said.

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With the PCA back in harness after months of inactivity, there is reason to hope that coconut production will be getting the attention it deserves. What short-term and long-term measures will be undertaken in the months ahead bear watching. 

The PCA for its part is requiring LGUs to draw up their specific programs and projects as part of their respective road maps. The road maps in turn will be the basis for their access to the estimated P105 billion levy funds. 

The PCA is banking on the participation of coconut farmers to ensure that projects and programs will eventually lead to addressing poverty and triggering growth and raising income. 

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