AGRITRENDS: Bringing back the golden days of coconut industry

Farmers are showing how to dehusk coconuts.

By the end of his term, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. sees 100 million coconut trees growing throughout the country. This legacy is part of the rehabilitation plan for the coconut sector, according to him.

Already, Marcos has met up with officials of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) at Malacañang, “to discuss their proposed Coconut Planting and Replanting Project aimed at reinvigorating the coconut industry.”

For its part, the PCA will issue a memorandum circular directing all national government agencies, instrumentalities, and local government units (LGUs) to support the coconut planting initiative project to make the vision into reality.

As part of the planting and replanting program, the PCA will lead in the planting of 20 to 25 million coconuts every year from 2023 to 2028. In accordance with a memorandum of agreement with LGUs, municipalities and provinces are enjoined to conduct activities like coconut planting and replanting, seed farm development, and coconut fertilization, among others.

An earlier report said that most of the coconuts PCA is targeting to plant will be in the open areas in Mindanao, where indigenous peoples’ groups live.

“The PCA intends to go all out on the planting program more than ever before because we used to have a limited planting target,” PCA deputy administrator Roel Rosales was quoted as saying by Philippine Star.

“We are very particular that we do not cut forest trees to give way to coconut trees nor do we allow the young coconuts to be cut in favor of a certain variety,” he added.

The Philippines used to the world’s largest coconut producer. In the past three years, coconut production in the country remained steady at 14.7 million metric tons, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority disclosed. This made the country ranked third.

Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of coconut with a production of 17.1 million metric tons. India closely trailed with 15.7 million metric tons.

Historically, the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions of Luzon and the Eastern Visayas were the centers of coconut production. But in the 1980s, Western Mindanao and Southern Mindanao also became important coconut-growing regions.

“I take pride in claiming that we are the number one coconut producer in the country, not because Mati is the biggest producer of coconut, but because Mati is the capital town of the biggest coconut producing province and that is, Davao Oriental,” said Mayor Michelle Rabat during the first Mindanao Coconut Summit a few years ago.

Coconut, in fact, is an emblem of Mati’s existence. About 27 thousand hectares of its total land area of 79,109 hectares is planted to coconut, with 18 thousand farmers cultivating the vastness and the richness of the area that spells livelihood for thousands of people in the locality.

“(Coconut) provides vital economic support to the rural communities, with over 3.4 million farmers directly benefiting from the industry,” reports the Laguna-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

Coconuts are referred to as “Man’s most useful tree,” “King of the tropical flora,” “Tree of abundance,” “Tree of heaven,” and “Tree of life.” Known in the science world as Cocos nucifera, it is the most important of cultivated palms and the most widely distributed of all palms.

Although not a native of the Philippines, coconut is considered as God’s gift to Filipinos. One historian wrote: “A man sleeps in the shade of the tree. He is awakened when a nut falls, drinks the water, and eats some of the meat. He then feeds the rest of the meat to the chickens, which produce eggs, milk, and meat. The leaves provide thatch for the roof and walls of his coconut hut, and are also woven into hats, baskets, and mats.”

There are a million uses of coconut. For instance, they can be made into musical instruments. In the film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, half coconut shells were used to make sound effects of a horse’s hoof beats when banged together. The coconut shells are also used to make the base of musical instruments such as the Chinese ban-hu and yea-hu.

The coconut shell can also be carved out to make fashion accessories like necklaces, bangles, pendants, earrings and so on. In fact, the Hawaiians use coconut shells to make the buttons for their Hawaiian shirts.

Unknown to many, coconut oil is used as a basic ingredient in some cosmetic soap products. Coconut oil is also used as a basic ingredient to make toothpaste for sensitive teeth. In addition, coconut oil can also be applied to skin to treat minor irritations like insect bites and sunburn.

The coconut industry is considered a million-dollar earner. So much so that during Martial Law, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos created PCA under Presidential Decree 232.

One good news about planting more coconuts. Doing so could help stave off the effects of climate change. “These coconut lands could be developed for income generating carbon sequestration projects and carbon credit market,” pointed out PCA’s Severino S. Magat.

Carbon sequestration describes long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. Carbon dioxide, in the form of gas, can be sequestered out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis. The carbon dioxide is converted into sugar by the plant or emitted back to the air through perspiration.

Carbon stored in plant parts other than the stem wood or trunk are generally decomposable biomass which eventually becomes a part of the soil organic matter (SOM) of which the more stable component is the 50 percent soil organic carbon (SOC).

In his paper presentation entitled, “Productive and Sustainable Coconut Farming Ecosystems as Potential Carbon Sinks in Climate Change Minimization: A Review and Advisory Notes,” Magat explained the important role of the coconut lands against the negative impacts of climate change.

In coconut, as in most tree crops, carbon is stored or sequestered both by the biomass and the soil of the ecosystem, indicating that the biomass and the soil are the main carbon sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide. These “carbon sinks” could be regulated and managed primarily by following proper cropping practices, according to Magat.

A two-year study conducted by PCA showed the annual rate of carbon sequestration in local tall variety coconut crops is 4.78 tons carbon per hectare. That is equivalent to 17.54 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare, Magat claimed.

“The amazing thing about the coconut palm is that it provides almost all the necessities of life: food, drink, oil, medicine, fiber, timber, thatch, mats, fuel, and domestic utensils, as well as serving important environmental services such as soil erosion control in coastal regions, wind protection and shade for other crops,” wrote agricultural book author Craig Elevitch.


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