Exports of coconut oil, the country’s top agricultural shipment, plunged 28 percent in the first nine months from a year ago, after the El Niño dry spell reduced harvest in coconut areas.
United Coconut Association of the Philippines executive director Yvonne Agustin said coconut oil exports in January to September, based on preliminary data, reached 472,353 metric tons, down from 655,049 MT in the same period last year.
“The drop in exports was due to the lingering effects of the El Niño phenomenon,” Agustin said.
The dry spell hit the country in the fourth quarter of 2015 until the second quarter of 2016, resulting in lower production of the crops and fisheries subsectors.
Farm production declined 3.5 percent in the first half, data from Philippine Statistics Authority showed. Coconut production alone fell 6.2 percent in the six-month period, a trend that continued in the third quarter.
Agustin said in September alone, coconut oil exports dropped 3 percent to 77,766 MT from last year’s 80,406 MT. Coconut oil, which is used in food, detergents and biofuels, is exported to Europe and the United States.
Agustin said aside from lower production, coconut oil prices affected the industry. Prices of CNO in the foreign market averaged $1,527 per MT in the nine-month period, higher than competitor palm kernel oil at $1,402 per MT.
Agustin earlier said the dry weather condition was felt in most coconut areas in the country.
“Copra production has been weak since late last year as El Niño strengthened,” Agustin said.
Agustin said exports of coconut oil were expected to drop 11 percent to 750,000 MT this year from 840,000 MT last year.
“For next year, we still don’t have a target as we usually set one in the last month of the year,” Agustin said.
Coconut oil exports went down 1.5 percent to 843,710 MT in 2015 from 856,973 MT in 2014.
Coconut oil is one of the top agricultural exports of the Philippines. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed coconut oil exports declined 18.3 percent in value terms in the first eight months, from $795 million to $649 million.
About 3.5 million farmers and their families depend on the coconut industry.