Coconut Farming in the Philippines
In the last decade, there has been a big focus on modernizing and optimizing the coconut industry in the Philippines, with an eye to truly supporting the local economies and producers directly involved in coconut cultivation.
by Ana Lucia Carrizo on Monday, May 4, 2020
The Crop that Shaped the Country’s Economy
Although the coconut tree is not a native species of the Philippines, it is known there today as the “Tree of Life.” This is a well-earned title in a country where the coconut industry provides a livelihood for approximately one-third of the population.
The industrialization of coconut production in the Philippines can be traced back to the early 20th century. Now, it is the world’s second-largest coconut producer, right behind Indonesia. With almost one-third of the land devoted to coconut farming, farmers produce enough for the country to hold a whopping 45% share in world coconut exports. Unsurprisingly, the industry dominates a large part of the country’s agriculture sector, employing 3.4 million coconut farmers.
In 1973 the Philippine Coconut Authority was established. This merged all coconut-related government operations into a single agency, with the intention of creating a globally competitive coconut industry through the development of high-value programs—carried out in transparency, with accountability and responsibility—that placed farmers at the fore.
Multi-level corruption meant that many of the funds intended to be reinvested in the coconut industry were siphoned out into individual’s pockets. However, the hefty increase in export revenues that this new era brought nonetheless translated into available financing for the sector:
“Coconut is one of the two agricultural commodities that earn the country more than a billion dollars in export revenues every year.”
– Dr. William Dar, former Secretary for Agriculture
In the last decade, there has been a big focus on modernizing and optimizing the coconut industry, with an eye to truly supporting the local economies and producers directly involved in coconut cultivation. These initiatives have included planting new trees, using larger tracts of land used for coconut farming, shifting the focus from raw coconuts to value-added processing, and making use of the sunlight that filters through the trees to plant intercrops.
As Dr. Patricio Faylon, a recognized agricultural policy expert from the Philippines has said, “It is not enough that we plant the most number of trees or produce the highest number of nuts. It is getting the highest value and benefits from this crop that matters most. The best way to do this is to transform the nuts and other coconut parts into high-value products.”
Through the years, and with the development of all sorts of “coconut technologies” like Coco-biodiesel or COCOPEAT, the Philippines has become an incredible example of what a single fruit can do for a country’s welfare and evolution. These shifts happen when people are inspired to use and boost resources to reach their full potential, unified by a vision that includes and incentivizes everyone.
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