Part of P75-B coco levy fund budgeted for R&D

A portion of the P75-billion coco levy fund will be allocated for research and development, Philippine Coconut Authority administrator Romulo J. dela Rosa said.

During the 2nd Cocolink at the SMX Convention Center Davao Tuesday, Dela Rosa said the research and development component would be integrated into the creation of Coconut Industry Development Roadmap once the proposed Coconut Industry Trust Fund will be legislated into law. The Lower House passed its own version last September 25.

Dela Rosa said the industry players themselves would develop the roadmap that will cover the entire coconut industry.

He said it would be needed to modernize the industry and increase the capabilities of farmers. The coco levy fund will also be utilized for the scholarship program of deserving children of the coconut farmers, he said.

Dela Rosa emphasized the need to modernize the coconut industry with farmers diversifying into other coconut-based products. He said this would have to mean lessening dependence on coconut oil.

“We should avoid single product dependence. Because of dependence on coconut oil as a single product, the Philippine coconut industry became very vulnerable to competition from cheaper vegetable oils. The development of other products and the resulting integration of factories has saved the industry from ruin,” he said.

Dela Rosa said it is possible to multiply coconut yields up to four times by following good agricultural practices through fertilization, hybridization and irrigation.

“We pride ourselves in saying that our coconuts are produced in an organic way. Unfortunately, our coconuts are organic by neglect. Being a naturally resilient crop, coconuts produce even with little cultivation and care. So, our farmers do not undertake measures to return the fertility of the soil, apply varietal improvement and insure water supply,” he said.

Dela Rosa said the agency is eyeing to distribute 20 million coconut seedlings over the next three years through its massive replanting program in a bid to revitalize the coconut industry in the country.

Dela Rosa said they have to venture into massive replanting and fertilization efforts to increase the production capacity of the coconut farms to be able to close the supply shortfall.

He said the PCA has a proposed 2018 budget of P1.4 billion, at least half of which will be allocated for the replanting, most specifically in areas severely hit by typhoons and affected pests and diseases. For Mindanao, Basilan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be a priority area, Dela Rosa said.. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)