New hope for local coconut farmers as US opens market
The Philippines is now preparing for its first shipment of young coconuts to the United States after a new trade deal was struck between the two countries following a bilateral meeting last week.
The local coconut industry is aiming to log its first shipment in July, with high hopes that it may be able to dominate the coconut segment of the US market now being led by Thailand.
While Thailand has stronger government assistance and is more diversified with its products, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) consultant Tommy Jalos said the government “is looking forward to penetrate the US market with a bigger volume and more attractive price points.”
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol also noted on his Facebook page that the neighboring country has a total of only 216,000 hectares (ha) planted to coconut, or just 6 percent of the Philippines’s hectarage for the crop at 3.5 million.
“The Philippine government now, under President Duterte, has embarked on an aggressive campaign to find markets for Philippine agricultural and fisheries products,” he added.
To streamline exportation, the PCA has been tasked to link farmer-cooperatives with US consolidators to help them fulfill the requirements under the latter’s quarantine procedures.
Young coconuts that may be exported in the US must be “immature, green and with 75 percent or more of outer shell surface of the husk removed” and must comply with packaging protocols.
Jalos said the agency has already tapped the Yakap at Halik Cooperative in Quezon province to start the exportation, but added that the trade deal was open to all farmers. PCA is looking to also tap farmers in Mindanao where the country’s coconut production is concentrated.
The Department of Agriculture plans to hold its ceremonial first shipment in July to coincide with the arrival of the country’s delegation to the US led by Piñol, wherein officials are scheduled to visit sorghum and garlic production areas there.
This visit comes eight months after US Agriculture Undersecretary Tom McKinney visited the Philippines and gave assurance that the US would open its market to the country for young coconuts.
The trade deal is a welcome development for the industry especially with the declining prices of copra in the international market.
Piñol has been pushing for the diversification and development of coconut products in the country so farmers would not be too vulnerable to the movement of global copra prices, which have been crippling local producers for quite some time now.
As of May 27, the average buying price for copra was at P12.95 a kilo against P22.28 the previous year, which was already below the farmers’ breakeven point.
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