By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Philippines is hoping to make the first shipment of young coconuts to the United States by July, a top agriculture official said.
This, as the Department of Agriculture (DA) now starts efforts to make sure there is enough quality supply for the said product.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the DA plans to hold its ceremonial first shipment of the green coconut to the US in July when a Philippine delegation, which he will lead, visits the sorghum and garlic production areas of America.
During a recently held bilateral meeting, Jill Wallace, head of the US delegation and deputy director of Phytosanitary Issues Management (PIM), confirmed that young coconuts from the Philippines that are immature or green, and with 75 percent or more of outer shell surface of the husk removed, can now be inspected and released to the United States as authorized under 7 CFR 319.56.
To make sure that the Philippines will not fall short of whatever demand there’s going to be for young coconuts, the DA’s Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will now link up organized farmers groups with buyers and consolidators in the US
The PCA has also been directed to advise its regional offices to identify farmers who grow the varieties for coco water and meat so that they could be included in the export program.
The DA, initially through its Agriculture and Fisheries Machinery and Equipment (AFME) loan program, will provide the equipment needed by the farmers’ groups to prepare their coconut for export to the US market.
The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Protocol of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that green coconuts must only have 25 percent of the husk to be allowed entry into the US.
Because of this, farmers need dehusking and packing equipment to ensure that the requirements are satisfied.
The DA chief said his agency is ready to provide working capital for the farmers groups so they could buy their members’ produce.
The US market for green coconuts and other high value coconut products is now dominated by Thailand which has way smaller coconut plantation in terms of hectares than the Philippines.
Thailand currently has 216,000 hectares of land planted to coconut compared to the Philippines, which has 3.5 million hectares.
The problem is, according to Piñol, is that the Philippines has failed to come up with an effective marketing for its locally produced coconut as well as add value to it.
Right now, the local coconut sector continues to face challenges, including the unstable price of copra, competition with the price and supply of palm oil, and high poverty incidence in coconut farming communities.