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Coconut Industry

Don’t give up your hopes on our coconut industry!. Whenever I see a coconut tree, I see my small village where I spent most of my innocent years as a child. I lived and breathed around coconut trees and the most pleasant way for me to reminisce the "good ole days" is to remember the smell of the coconut fruits, leaves, husk and the coconut tree itself. The sound of the coconut leaves banging from each other’s branch soothed my tiny body, which enabled me to follow my grandma’s strict orders to take my afternoon naps on our "balcon" (balcony).

When I went home four years ago, I was sad to see our coconut farming somewhat being neglected. Many coconut farmers have added other trees to produce other products to help support our agricultural farming industry. In spite of that sadness, I still saw some glitter of hopes that our coconut industry will not be a total loss in the future in spite of the many intriguing negative notions.

Everyone knows that our country’s coconut industry has been there for many years. This industry has gone through several "rollercoaster rides", but managed to get back up to continue to support our struggling economy. The loss of Oroquieta’s Red V and Bunotex was a big blow to our provincial economy. However, there are many opportunities to start exploring for future industrial revolution, such as upgrading our coconut industry in many other ways. I believe many of you share my interest to see that industry bloom again.

Despite the controversial downhill of our coconut industry, I see hope. This is because our country hasn't given up its hope as well. The years of bad publicity on saturated fats that strongly linked to heart disease was among the many factors that contributed to the downhill of our country's coconut industry. This is because according to scientists, coconut is one of the sources of saturated fats. However, recently there have been some intriguing reports that some scientists are finding out that coconut is not totally the culprit. So, let's cross our fingers for a future boost in our coconut industry.

Although the production of coconuts has dramatically reduced, the income generated from copra has not totally diminished after all. For that matter, the rising price of copra may well be a signal that it’s time for us to think that coconut is still a good source of income. According to reports, the price of coconut has risen from P7.00 (Phil Pesos) to P10.60 (Phil Pesos) per kilo since last year and is expected to reach as much as P12.00 (Phil Pesos) per kilo by end of this year. Economic struggle and climatic condition have been the reported significant factors which affected the decline of the coconut production during the late 1990s.

In spite of those hard evidence on the industry’s struggle, the Philippines was still able to raked generated revenues of $600 million (U.S. Dollars). This year is different because the projected revenue is expected to only reach less than $3 million (U.S. Dollars). So, what can we do about it? Well, we can start looking at other ways and means on how coconut can be useful to life. One of our Kababayans, Chris Entia wrote to me asking me to take a look at some of the controversial reports on the Philippine Coconut industry. Surfing through the net, I stumbled on an article on a project company called the Integrated Coco Processing Company (ICPC) - Fil-Farms, Inc., in General Santos City. Reading through that article, I felt so intrigued that I "e-mailed" the company’s contact person urging him to survey Oroquieta City’s location for a possible solution for their quest for a processing plant.

The Fil-Farms, Inc., is a consultant for a project company that is looking at maximing the produce from coconut fruits and processing them into high-value products. What does this mean to our farmers back home? Well, that would mean a dramatic increase in both farmers’ and investors’ revenues. The company is aiming to transform our coconuts into hard earned currency through the processing of high-value coconut products:

  • Fibers - for twine, seat cushion, biomats and others
  • Peat or Powder - can be used as fertilizer, culture medium, soil conditioner, and others
  • Coco Shell - can be processed into charcoal
  • Coco Water - can be processed into purified drinking water, coco nectar and vinegar
  • Coco Meat - can be processed into Virgin Oil, soap, and coco/cake flour

The ICPC project is described to operate with 1,600 workers along with machineries which will be used to process four main parts of the coconut: coco husk, coco shell, coco water and coco meat which will be transformed into processed products as described above. Coconut farmers will be the main supplier of this industry similar to the way we delt with Red V in the past. The required capital is P75 million (Phil Pesos).

As of now, this company is looking at establishing their processing plant in an area where coconut trees are abundant. Where else do we think we should tell them to go?….but Oroquieta!

Ging Mutia

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Saturday, April 19, 2003 (Revised)