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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Over the past three years, the purchasing prices of copra in Northern Mindanao and across the country have been on a downward trend, posing a threat to the income sources of approximately 2.5 million farmers and the overall survival of the coconut industry.
As of August 8, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) reported that the average millgate price per kilogram of copra in Northern Mindanao was P33.50, while the average farmgate price was P27.16. The figures reflect a decrease of about 10% compared to last year’s prices.
Copra is made by drying the coconut’s inner part after removing the husk and water. This is then turned into coconut oil, used widely in cooking, cosmetics, and various industries for its high smoke point and moisturizing qualities.
Northern Mindanao stands as the second-largest coconut product producer, contributing nearly 12% to the nation’s total industry output of 3.36 million metric tons, trailing only behind the Davao Region.
Zamboanga Peninsula ranks third, accounting for about 11% of the production.
As of August 8, the PCA reported low purchasing prices in the Davao and Zamboanga Peninsula regions: millgate prices stood at P31.50 and P32.25 respectively, while farmgate prices were P25.23 and P25.36.
According to the PCA’s first-quarter briefer on coconut trade performance this year, coconut exports contributed roughly 35% to the country’s total agricultural exports.
In 2022, coconut exports totaled US$3.2 billion, making up 43% of the country’s agricultural exports. However, there was a significant decline in volume and value from January to February this year compared to the same period in 2022.
Among traditional coconut exports, copra meal suffered the most substantial contraction at 87.8%, followed by oleochemicals at 54.7%, and coconut oil at 47%.
Other coconut exports, including virgin coconut oil, activated carbon, and fresh coconuts, also experienced a downward trend.
To address the concerning price drop, the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Incorporated (Oro Chamber) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Northern Mindanao jointly organized the “Coconut Summit” on August 29 at SM-Cagayan de Oro City Uptown in Cagayan de Oro.
During the event, Maricel Quinto, the general manager of Alayon Multipurpose Cooperative (Alayon MPC) based in Gingoog City, said the cooperative suffered losses due to the drop in copra prices and reduced nut production.
As a result, she said, some members had to repurpose senile coconut trees into furniture items instead of selling lumber.
The cooperative began crafting novelty items, lamps, and decorations from coconut shells, and even ventured into charcoal production.
Like other multipurpose cooperatives, Alayon MPC operates a consumer store and provides financial services to its members.
“A single stalk from a coconut leaf may be useless, but once bundled with other stalks, it becomes useful,” Quinto said.
Established in 1994, the Alayon MPC has diversified its revenue streams beyond copra production, which cannot guarantee annual dividends and patronage refunds for its members.
Giovanni Dahino, a former mayor of Baungon, Bukidnon, and now the chief operating officer of his family-owned Golden Virgo Farm, said they were committed to enhancing coconut cultivation and production techniques.
Dahino said they were adopting best practices from other tropical countries to improve their approach.
“Raw materials are pulling us down,” said Dahino as he stressed the need for PCA registration and the acquisition of free hybrid coconut seedlings of high-yielding tall and dwarf varieties.
Golden Virgo Farm initiated coconut planting, intercropped with corn, on 350 hectares in 2006 and plans to expand to 1,000 hectares over five years.
While an average coconut tree can yield 70 to 100 coconuts annually, some varieties are capable of producing up to 150 coconuts. In the Philippines, the PCA reports an average annual yield ranging from 40 to 45 coconuts.
The summit participants called for the establishment of a Coconut Industry Research and Development Center at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan to help resuscitate the ailing coconut industry. – Rappler.com