Coconut planting to be linked to CCT program
To support the investments that two American firms have committed to make in the country’s coconut industry, replanting efforts will be linked to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
In an interview with reporters, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said helping in replanting efforts would be made one of the conditions for beneficiaries of the CCT to receive their allowance.
Domingo said that right after landing in Manila from President Aquino’s official visit to the United States last week, he met with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman to discuss the details of the replanting efforts.
“We knew we had to do massive replanting. The Department of Agriculture has already committed to do replanting and fertilization of existing trees to increase their yield. We then discussed tying up the DA’s replanting efforts with the DSWD’s CCT program,” Domingo explained.
“I don’t know yet what the mechanics will be, but replanting could be used as one of the conditions for households to participate in the CCT, similar to how families are required to send their children to school,” he added.
Domingo said hundreds of thousands of hectares of land would have to be planted to coconuts if the country wanted to take advantage of the global coco water demand boom.
Brazil, he related, was running out of coco water supply for the global market because of its huge domestic demand. With demand for coco water growing by an average of 40 percent a year, the Philippines could step up to the plate and cover the supply gap that Brazil could leave.
In the agriculture sector, he said the coconut industry had the biggest potential for revenue generation and job creation in the countryside.
“We have to have a big ambition. The demand is there. The only limit is on our capability to supply,” Domingo said.
On his trip to the United States last week, Aquino said two American companies, Pepsi Co. and Vita Coco, had expressed interest in making fresh investments in the Philippine coconut industry to meet the international demand for coco water.
Aquino said Vita Coco officials had told him during his US visit that they intended to invest $15 million in the country in the next four years.
Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Euclides Forbes said the agency was given a budget of P354 million for fertilization in 2012. This year, the replanting budget was increased to P512 million from only P60 million.
With this budget, Forbes said the PCA could fertilize 96,000 hectares of coconut plantations with each tree given two kilos of salt a year. Coconut trees thrived on sandy soil with a high level of salinity.
The PCA also planned to replant 100,000 saplings every year to replace aging coconut trees, Forbes said.
He said around 44.8 million of the country’s 320 million coconut trees had been classified as old and senile, producing few or no nuts at all. These trees should be cut and sold as coconut lumber.
The peak years of coconut trees are between 7 and 25 years old, when they bear between 40 and 65 nuts a year.