MANILA – To uplift the standard of living of Filipino coconut farmers, government must intervene and support them in crop diversification and in the use of other parts of the tree of life, senator re-electionist Francis Pangilinan said.
“Eighty percent of the country’s 3.5 million hectares of coconut farmlands are mono cropped. But if our farmers can plant coffee, cacao, banana, some variety of corn under the coconut trees, these crops would add to their income,” Pangilinan said.
“Agriculture is a very risky venture. If our farmers are able to have several crops, that would be spreading the risk,” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
The average coconut farmer earns about P15,000 a year or P50 a day, and gets poorer every day, Pangilinan said, adding that this situation can be changed.
At the same time, he said that the 15 billion coconut nuts produced annually need not be the only output from coconut trees.
“For instance, three billion liters of coco water are wasted every year even when coco water has been found to be very healthy,” Pangilinan said.
“Virgin coconut oil and coco sugar are other hot items among the health-conscious,” he added.
What is needed is for government intervention so that in both instances, diversification of crops and multi-use of other coconut products, the coconut tree is maximized to earn more income for farmers, Pangilinan said.
He said the government can provide technical training and financing so that the farmers are able to do this.
“The traditional copra alone would not earn much for our coconut farmers,” he said.
He pointed to other products that can be derived from different parts of the coconut tree that are normally just thrown away:
* Coconut water can also be used to produce nata de coco, and wine and coconut vinegar.
* Coir, or the fiber extracted from the coconut husks, can be used to make floor mats and doormats, brushes, ropes and strings, stuffing for mattresses, caulking (sealing) material for boats, and fishing nets.
* Coconut leaves can be used to make brooms, baskets and mats, cooking skewers, kindling arrows, and roofing.
* Coconut husks and shell can be used as handicrafts, source of fuel, to buff floors, and various household products and flooring materials.