Jonathan de Santos
September 25, 2011
SENATOR Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Sunday to help the Philippine coconut industry take advantage of higher demand for coconut water.
This came after President Benigno Aquino III announced US-based Pepsi Co. and Vita Coco are interested in investing $15 million in Philippine coconuts.
Coconut water, or buko juice, is being touted in the US and in other countries as a health drink and the two companies anticipate demand to grow.
But Pangilinan warned, “these foreign investments will mean nothing if our coconut industry is dead.”
The senator has been asking the DA to set aside P5 billion from a P27.1 billion meant for irrigation projects and invest the money in the coconut industry instead.
“We need to revive this dying industry, invest the necessary government funding to boost coconut production, ensure the income of our farmers, and develop a roadmap for the sustainability of coconut production,” he said.
He said the Philippine Coconut Authority reported that Philippine coconut trees are dying of old age.
More than 44 million coconut trees are at least 60 years old and are now considered senile, Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said that aside from new coconut stocks, the Philippines should “look at other markets for buko juice and other coconut products worldwide, especially now that demand is on an upswing again.”
He added the expected boom in coconut water should benefit coconut farmers, many of whom live on just P30,000 a year.
He said the government and the private sector should make sure farmers do not miss the gains from renewed interest in coconuts.
That may be helped along by a Philippine Coconut Industry Development Authority (Philcida) that Senator Edgardo Angara wants to replace the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Angara filed a bill last year proposing the creation of Philcida as a policy-making body that will focus on boosting coconut production, product development, and bringing coconut products to more markets.
If Angara’s bill is passed into law, the Philcida will get access to a P1-billion Coconut Development Fund paid with appropriations from the national budget.
Coconut farmers will also have to pay Philcida P0.12 for every kilogram of copra they sell to traders, exporters, millers, desiccators and other end-users of coconut products. That money will go into a trust fund that will pay for Philcida’s administrative expenses.
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