Sunday, September 25, 2011

Save dying coconut industry-Kiko

MANILA, September 26, 2011-Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food bats  the Department of Agriculture and key players in the coconut industry to save the country’s dying coconut industry as he welcomes news from President Benigno Aquino III’s U.S. trip regarding potential foreign investments in the Philippine coconut industry.

“The President revealed that two U.S. companies, Pepsi Co. and Vita Coco, are looking to invest $15 million within the next four years, to meet the surging demand for coco water, saying that the country’s ‘buko’ juice is very rich in electrolytes and minerals and could therefore be a healthier alternative to sports drinks,” Pangilinan said, pointing out that these foreign investments will mean nothing if our coconut industry is dead.

Pangilinan said that earlier this month, he called on the Department of Agriculture to allow five billion pesos from the irrigation budget to help save the coconut industry, because no less than the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) had said that the country’s coconut trees are dying.

PCA revealed that over 44 million coconut trees are already classified as “old and senile” and can no longer bear any fruit, saying that about 27 percent of the total agricultural lands (in the Philippines) belong to coconut. “We have plenty of senile trees, those over 60 years old. Of the 230 million trees, 14 percent are old,” PCA Administrator Euclides Flores quoted.

Pangilinan said that the first order of business is to bring the coconut industry back to life. There is a pressing need to revive this dying industry, invest the necessary government funding to boost coconut production and to ensure the income of the farmers, and develop a roadmap for the sustainability of coconut production.

Pangilinan added that aside from the U.S., let’s also look at other markets for buko juice and other coconut products worldwide, especially now that demand is on an upswing again.

“The bottomline for these efforts would be to lift coconut farmers out of poverty. Vhile The Philippines is known for its coconut products, its coconut farmers earn only P30,000 a year,” Pangilinan pointed out.

“How can anyone live or raise a family on just P30.000 a year, or just P2,500 a month,” Pangilinan asked.  “This is totally unacceptable and unjust. With these new investments, coconut industry should be resurgence and a better life for our coconut farmers. The Government and the private sector should make sure that we don’t lose out on this opportunity,” he said. (Jason de Asis)

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