The Agriculture Department on Tuesday called for massive replanting of coconuts trees to bring back productivity and increase the income of families dependent on the sector.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the government would actively support efforts to help increase productivity, lift up exports and make the Philippines the best source of coconut-based products.
“We now have eight laboratories equipped with somatic embryogenesis technology that can help accelerate tissue culture of better varieties of coconut trees. This is a pilot project,” Dar said at the opening of the 2nd World Coconut Congress at SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
A study of the coconut-planting provinces showed that 70 million coconut trees should be replaced because of their senility and declining nut production capacity.
About 3.6 million hectares of farmlands are planted to coconut trees. Many of them are old trees that yield an average of 45 nuts per tree annually, lower than Indonesia’s 150 to 200 nuts per tree.
“If we want to compete, we need to bring in the best of technology of agronomy. This is the only way we can level up our exports,” Dar said.
Based on the tissue culture program, new varieties can yield 90 to 100 nuts a year, a step closer to producing 150 to 200 nuts a year.
Dar said the Philippine Coconut Authority should identify measures to reinvigorate the industry like the expansion of ideal sites for coconut farming.
“Coconut farming should not be at the backyard level, which is what most of our farmlands are and what we are practicing now. If we want to increase production we should pool lands together and form plantations of 20,000 to 30,000 hectares big,” he said.
Intercropping coconut with other farm crops is also a good way to maximize the use of land, he said.
“That way the farmers will earn more,” Dar said.
Coconut is considered a major export, contributing 3.6 percent of the country’s gross value-added in agriculture, next to banana, corn and rice.
The Philippines is the world’s second-biggest coconut producer with an annual yield of 153.5 million tons, next to Indonesia with 183 million tons.