Agrilink. Foodlink and Aqualink, the country’s largest international trade exhibition on food, agriculture and aquaculture, will be highlighting the coconut sector and its important role in the growth of Eastern Visayas’ agricultural industry.

Scheduled on Oci.3 to 5 at the World Trade Center, Agrilink will also underscore the significance of resilience to climate change to further improve the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolks.

The event’s regional focus will cover Biliran, Eastern and Northern Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Samar.

Elvira Torres, Department of Agriculture regional technical director for research and regulations, said 60 to 70 percent of Eastem Visayas’ agricultural lands are planted with coconut trees. Despite this, the sector still faces roadblocks in terms of economic growth.

The DA,through the local Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) agency in Eastern Visayas, has been proactively working with farmers and entrepreneurs into transforming the region’s stagnant coconut sector into a globally competitive but socially inclusive industry.

Apart from earmarking funds for infrastructure development, both agencies are also taking initiatives to further renew interest in coconut farming, such as incentivizing farmers who replant coconut trees.

Tacloban has assembly and buying stations where farmers can sell their copra, which will then be transported to other areas that need it, like Cebu. Tacloban also has oil milling facilities that buy and process copra from local farmers.

Torres said coconut farmers can not just depend on copra alone. The volatility in the prices of staples like copra and palm oil in domestic and international markets can put coconut farmers at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, PCA regional manager Jeffrey delos Reyes said a value-added supply chain could help shift the region’s coconut sector from a mainly subsistence √≠arming, community into a sustainably lucrative agribusiness industry. This includes processing raw coconut materials into food products like virgin coconut oil, organic sugar, coconut water or juice, tuba (wine), cosmetic ingredients like shell charcoal and activated carbon and industrial products like methyl ester, which is used in biodiesels.

One of the technologies that can produce coconut-derived biodiesel created by a Filipino scientist is already being used or at least tested in other countries.

PCA and other local government agencies like the  departments of science and tehcnology, trade and industry and environment and natrual resources are also actively supporting social enterprises and agribusinesses.

In Bagong Bayan, Bato, Leyte, there’s Lolo Bobby’s Handi- crafts which is already exporting artisanal handicrafts, mostly made from coconut materials, to other countries. Rinelda Kuizon, its main proprietor, said Lolo Bobby’s has grown to become a major source of income for the community. They also plant coconut trees to sustain production.

In Palo,Leyte,the E.F.Winery agribusiness processes coconut sap into wines and spirits. Coconut sap is sourced from local farmers and naturally fermented and aged. Its Tubahalina (coconut red wine) has been a consistent favorite in Oktubafest, a festival in Tacloban that also aims to boost the local coconut industry.

Aside from featuring a variety of agricultural products and services, Agrilink 2019 will also highlight the most up-to-date and ground-breaking inputs, technologies and alliances that can enhance the profitability of the interdependent industries of agriculture, aquaculture and food.

The three-day event will include free seminars, live animal and plant display and other interactive activities that will promote and enhance the potential of different agricultural markets.

Published in The Philippine Star