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. For its 26th year, Agrilink, slated from October 3 to 5 at the World Trade Center, will also underscore the significance of resilience to climate change to further alleviate the livelihood of farmers and fisherfolk. The event’s regional focus will cover Biliran, Eastern and Northern Samar,Leyte,Southern Leyte, and Samar.

According to Elvira Torres, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) regional technical director for research and regulations, 60 to 70% of Eastern 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 Authorit (PCA) agency in Eastern Visayas, have been proactively working with farmers and entrepreneurs into transforming the region’s stagnant coconut sector into a globally competitive but sociallyinclusive 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.

Torres also cited government owned companies across the region that buy the farmers’ coconut produce. For example, Tacloban has assembly and buying stations where farmers can sell their copra, which would 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, however, also noted that coconut farmers cannot just depend on copra alone. The vol├ítility in the prices of staples like copra and palm oil in domestic and international markets can put coconut farmers at a disadvantage. Jeffrey Delos Reyes,PCA’s regional manager, said that value-added supply chain can help shift the region’s coconut sector from a mainly subsistence farming 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 she’l -harcoal and activated carbol. and industrial products  like’ methyl ester, which is used  in biodiesels.In fact, 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.

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer