Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol stresses a point during the Coconut Stakeholders’ Consultation on March 19, 2019. Joining him are (l-r): PCA OIC-Administrator Glenn Santos, meeting’s presiding officer Omi Royandoyan, and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Assistant Secretary Orville Ballitoc

Amidst the challenges being faced by the local coconut industry due to the low buying price of copra, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol met with coconut farmers and growers during a consultative meeting conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) on March 19, 2019.

Involving representatives from various government agencies, Agricultural and Fishery Councils (AFCs) and concerned stakeholders of the coconut industry, the activity allowed participants to discuss issues and relevant areas of concern confronting the sector, including that of local copra production and pricing.

The Agriculture Chief gave his assurance that the DA is doing all means necessary to address this problem.

“Much as I would like to, I don’t have the power to increase the price (of copra). ‘Yun po ang katotohanan, at sana mainitindihan ninyo. The pricing of coconut oil is determined by world market indexes. But there are things that we can do locally to alleviate, na medyo gumaan ang problema,” said Secretary Piñol.  

One of these options is for affected farmers and growers to avail of the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC)’s loan program which is the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA), noting that the DA has adequate funding in its coffers for the purpose of helping farmers transport and sell copra to Oil Mills.

“Handa kaming (DA) tumulong at magpautang ng pambili nyo ng truck, ng working capital na pambili ng copra ng mga miyembro ninyo. May pera kami sa DA thru our loan program. Iyan ang inooffer namin,” said Secretary Piñol.

He also instructed the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) management to disseminate the details of the PLEA program to interested coconut cooperatives and associations around the country.

In response to these measures being undertaken by the DA, the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF)-Oil Management Group, thru its President Aquilino Trinidad, has announced the increase of its mill-gate buying price for copra at PhP20 per kilo.

This move is expected to boost the morale of coconut farmers after struggling with the low buying price of copra for the past several months.

CIIF-OMG also disclosed that they will be setting up buying stations for copra strategically located in areas where there are no Oil Mills, such as the provinces of Samar and Leyte.

Also raised by the stakeholders are problems regarding their transactions with local copra traders. This has been identified as one of the factors that prevent farmers from selling their produce to the Oil Mills, apart from the high transportation cost and distance between farms and Oil Mill facilities.  

For his part, the coconut meeting’s presiding officer Omi Royandoyan noted that this concern shall be considered during the crafting of the Coconut Industry Roadmap. 

“Kung hindi maayos ang redemption, ang kikita lang sa PLEA program ay mga traders,” noted Royandoyan.

Secretary Piñol also recommended that coconut farmers and growers pursue other business opportunities while waiting for the copra situation to normalize.

“Hindi puwede na panay copra lang ‘yung engagements nyo. You may have to wait a little longer because we have to wait for the release of the Coco levy funds before we can implement the village-level processing center. Habang mababa ang presyo ng niyog ay you can engage in livelihood activities outside of coconut which the DA can fund, para meron kayong pang-alalay at pantawid,” he said. -AE