‘Pablo,’ ‘Yolanda’ pull down coco output

Exports also seen plunging by 23% in 2014

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MANILA, Philippines—Coconut output is expected to drop by 13.5 percent to 2.4 million metric tons this year given the devastation of millions of trees in the wake of typhoons “Pablo” and “Yolanda.”

 

According to the United Coconut Associations of the Philippines, the forecast volume is also 3.8 percent short of the average output of 2.5 million MT in the past three years.

 

“The shortfall has been anticipated after two successive years of increasing output (in 2012 and 2013), a usual occurrence in many years in a coconut palm cycle, and due to the effects of the typhoons,” the group said in a report.

 

This most recent occurrence of the seasonal boom was attributed to three straight years of heavy fruit bearing among trees following a “production stress” in 2011.

 

UCAP also projects coconut exports to plunge by 22.9 percent this year to 1.56 million MT in copra terms.

 

The projected shipment volume is 7.4 percent less than the 1.68 million MT average for 2011-2013.

 

“The export of coconut oil (the country’s top agricultural dollar earner) is projected to materially decline by 24.5 percent to 850,000 MT amid expectations of reduced harvest,” the UCAP said.

 

The expected total CNO cargo for this year falls 8.8 percent short of the average of 932,555 MT posted in the past three years.

 

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) counts 34 million coconut trees to have been damaged in Samar, Leyte and other parts of Eastern Visayas after Yolanda’s rampage in November 2013. Of this number, almost half, or 45 percent, was totally damaged.

 

Had these 34 million trees been spared, they were supposed to be producing about 245,000 MT of copra yearly, according to calculations by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics.

 

“The full effect of typhoon Pablo in the last quarter of 2012 is also expected this year and this translates to copra loss of about 37,500 MT yearly,” the UCAP said citing PCA data.

 

The PCA puts the number of Pablo’s coconut casualties at 3.5 million trees. An average coconut tree in the Pablo-affected areas yields about 56 coconut yearly.

 

Earlier this month, preliminary data from the industry group showed that the volume of CNO exports in January dropped by 46 percent year on year to 72,470 MT.

 

“The January volume is within the normal range for a monthly shipment, but the volume for (January 2013) was higher than the average,” UCAP executive director Yvonne Agustin told reporters.

 

Agustin said industry players were expecting total exports for this year to shrink by almost 25 percent to 850,000 MT because of the effects of Yolanda.

 

In 2013, shipments of the country’s top agricultural export surpassed the 1.1-million-MT goal to reach 1.126 million MT.

 

“The extent of the effects of the typhoon to CNO shipments is yet to be fully determined but should be felt in (the February) shipment,” Agustin said.

 

Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said small-scale coconut farmers had to go up the value chain through projects that could put to best use the interest earnings on the coconut levy fund.

 

Alcala said that, to use the earnings optimally, coconut growers needed to appropriate the fund for projects that promote non-traditional livelihood.

 

“Aside from copra and crude CNO processing, farmers may want to try other value-adding processes which produce virgin coconut oil and coconut skimmed milk,” he said.

 

“Even as CNO remains one of the country’s major export commodities, we need to deviate from it and produce high-value products,” Alcala added.

 

In particular, the agriculture chief mentioned farmer-proposed initiatives like Bukod-Kopra and Fresco.

 

Bukod-Kopra describes a strategy that uses resources in copra-making farms—such as coco water, husk and shells—which are usually just thrown away.

 

Fresco refers to non-copra processing that uses fresh mature coconut as raw material for interlinked processes that produce a variety of byproducts like coco milk, coco flour and coco skimmed milk.

 

The agriculture chief noted that in 2012, coconut farmers nationwide held a conference where they agreed to maintain the coconut levy—amounting to some P71 billion—as a trust fund and spend only the fund’s interest earnings.

 

Alcala challenged farmers to form groups and create programs that will oversee the establishment of village-level processing plants that will form part of planned agro-industrial hubs.

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