Gov't to use coco levy proceeds on farm inputs
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) aims to use the coconut levy funds recovered by the government for farm inputs to raise the competitiveness of the coconut industry.
After a consultation with coconut farmers on Friday, November 9, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters most coconut farmers have agreed to use the coco levy proceeds for farm inputs rather than receive the funds in cash.
The Supreme Court has ruled with finality that 24% of San Miguel Corp. was obtained using coconut levy funds. The shares are valued at P70 billion and should be remitted to the government for the benefit of the coconut industry.
"We are trying to finish the proposal in a week or two so we can request an audience with the President," Alcala said. The farmers are now working with the DA on a proposal on how to use the funds.
Alcala said one of the salient points of the proposal is a plan to put the funds in safe investment instruments so they can earn interest. The interest proceeds will be used to fund projects that can have immediate impact on the coconut industry. A team will be formed to manage the funds, noted Alcala.
In terms of identifying the beneficiaries of the coco levy funds, Alcala said the department would prioritize provinces that contributed to the funds to save time and effort.
Alcala estimates that out of the 80 provinces in the country, around 60 are actively engaged in coconut farming.
"How can you tell who is the legitimate coconut farmer or not? A farmer may be cultivating the crop now but what about the one who owns the land, the one who contributed to the funds? If we identify them one by one, it will take a very long time before the funds are used. But if we develop the industry as a whole now, the effects will trickle down to all," Alcala said.
The agriculture chief stressed that developing high-value products from coconut such as coconut water, coconut milk, coconut flour and others will lessen the country's dependence on coconut oil exports. This will, in turn, protect the income of farmers when prices are low. - Rappler.com