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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

DA to boost coconut industry productivity to benefit farmers

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking at massive coconut planting and replanting to boost production of a sector that accounts for more than a third of the country’s agricultural exports and livelihood source for millions of Filipinos.

“The Philippines needs to embark on increasing productivity through the cultivation of quality planting materials like [coconut] hybrids and varieties with superior traits,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. told the inaugural International Scientific Conference on Research and Development held Monday at the University of the Philippines’ campus in Los Banos, Laguna.

The Philippines is the world’s second-largest coconut producer, next only to Indonesia, but is the world’s top exporter, shipping around 70 percent of its output overseas. Top coconut exports include crude and refined coconut oil, desiccated coconut, copra meal, and coconut water. Nearly 3.5 million Filipino farmers nurture coconut plantations that cover about 3.6 million hectares across the country.

Despite stable export growth, the coconut industry continues to suffer from declining farm yield that started in 2010 due to infestation and major typhoons, low investments, limited research and development, and poor infrastructure—all keeping many coconut farmers poor.

Of the Philippines’ 82 provinces, 68 are coconut producers, with Davao Oriental as the biggest producer. The Philippine Coconut Authority said the coconut industry increased its export value in 2022 to $3.2 billion.

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“The novel initiative of [conference] organizers linking science and business to Genetic Resources Conservation, Germplasm Exchange, and Use can only be achieved by harmonizing the minds and efforts of researchers, policymakers, and the private sector,” Laurel said.

Laurel said the DA will support “unified, responsive, and market-driven initiatives” to bolster coconut production and consequently improve the lives of millions of coconut farmers.

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