Bigger budget sought for coconut industry
MANILA -The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is seeking an additional budget of P11 billion for next year to bolster not only local production but also the income of coconut farmers nationwide.
In a briefing held on Monday, PCA Administrator Bernie Cruz said the additional funds would be used to establish seed gardens or seed farms in coconut-producing areas. The Department of Budget and Management set a budget ceiling of only a little more than P1 billion for the agency.
“We are asking for more funds to put up a seed garden or seed farm in every coconut-producing area so that the logistical problem will no longer be an obstacle. The seed gardens to be established in every province will provide the seeds we need,” Cruz said.
The PCA noted that government agencies implementing the P75-billion coco levy fund were experiencing challenges in securing more budget to, for instance, employ people or commission a study to look into the industry.
Cruz said the utilization of the coco levy fund does not cover the administrative cost of carrying out the plan to revitalize the industry.
“All government agencies involved in the coconut industry road map are encountering problems because they also have to utilize their General Appropriations Act funds for their respective projects,” he said.
Under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Act, the PCA is allotted 15 percent or P5 billion annually from the coco levy fund intended for various undertakings aimed at the development of the coconut value chain.
“But if we use our own budget for the coconut industry road map, we will be flagged by the COA (Commission on Audit),” Cruz said, adding: “We are seeking additional funds because wherever you go, you will see that we need to replace our coconut trees with better varieties.”
Coconut seeds come from Zamboanga and Bicol although the PCA said those from the latter could only be used within the province in order to contain a disease currently plaguing the industry there.
Once the old coconut trees are replaced, the PCA said it would double the average yield of a coconut tree to 80 to 100 nuts a year from the current average of 44 nuts a year.
In 2022, the country produced 14.93 million metric tons (MT) of coconut, up by 1.45 percent from 14.71 million MT a year ago, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Cruz said the higher budget would also double the income of domestic farmers even if the farm-gate price, or the selling price between farmers and traders, remained the same.
The farm-gate price of copra averaged P22.88 per kilogram as of June 9 against P37.54 per kg in the same period a year ago, data from the PCA showed.
According to PCA Deputy Administrator Roel Rosales, the declining price of copra is being experienced across the country. He explained that the farther the processing center or oil mill was, the lower the prevailing price would be. INQ