The government must invest more to improve the country’s coconut industry as exports from the sector could potentially reach $6 billion, a former agriculture secretary said yesterday.
“The coconut industry’s vast potential to earn more has never been tapped because of numerous issues bugging the industry,” said former agriculture secretary William Dar.
Dar, who is also the founding president of Inang Lupa Movement Inc., said the Philippines could triple its revenues from coconut exports by increasing the productivity of coconut trees to 150 nuts per year using dwarf hybrids developed by the Philippine Coconut Authority. Hybrids start bearing fruits in three to four years compared with seven years for the tall traditional varieties.
“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,” he added.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the country had 3.565 million hectares, or 26 percent of total agricultural lands, planted to 339 million bearing coconut trees, tended by 3.4 million farmers, who are mostly poor.
“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.
He said the government and the private sector should focus on propping up the industry’s efficiency and competitiveness.
“In the global scene, 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,” he said.
“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.