A coconut farm worker prepares the nuts for processing into copra. – Inquirerpic
LEGAZPI CITY: The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has allocated 30,000 new seedlings of hybrid coconut for an intensified planting-material dispersal drive in the island-province of Masbate, the agency’s top official in the region said.
The drive is part of the PCA’s Accelerated Coconut Planting and Replanting Project (ACPRP), placed under the government’s National Coconut Productivity Program (NCPP) being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The move is in line with President Aquino’s push for greater investments in the coconut industry, still a strong pillar of the national economy.
The PCA is implementing the project in Masbate to help the province regain its standing as one of the country’s leading copra producers.
PCA Regional Director Eduardo Allorde said the project would help augment the income of local coconut farmers, who are bothered by the dwindling production of the crop because of less productive trees in their farms.
He also said the seedlings are of the Toroman variety - a high-yielding coconut palm sourced from Cotabato - which could yield as much as 100 nuts per harvest.
In preparation for the project’s implementation, Allorde said the PCA office in Masbate, in partnership with local government units (LGUs), is establishing two seedling farms, from where farmers could pick up the new planting materials.
Farmers will also be provided with free fertilizers under the Salt Fertilization Project (SFP), which uses locally sourced agricultural-grade salt (NaCl) in the DA’s fertilization initiative under the Agrikulturang Pilipino (AgriPinoy) project.
AgriPinoy is the department’s overall strategic framework that guides its various agricultural-development services and programs for 2011 to 2016 and beyond.
Using NaCl or common salt as fertilizer is a practical way of increasing coconut production. Salt is the cheapest and best source of chlorine in increasing copra yield.
A PCA survey conducted nationwide showed that at least 40 coconut-producing provinces are severely chlorine-deficient.
Besides being inexpensive, salt is also very easy to apply, accelerates crop growth and development, increases copra weight and the number of nuts, minimizes leaf-spot damage, and is environment-friendly.
Allorde said Masbate LGUs are providing farmers with training on new approaches in coconut production as a counterpart to the program.
He added that ACPRP’s implementation in the province is continuing and the seedlings to be distributed add to the over 95,000 already dispersed from late 2011 until last year.
With annual export earnings of US$2 billion, the coconut industry provides jobs to at least a third of the country’s population. Its performance through the years has led to its global recognition as a coconut leader.
The NCPP, which covers the Participatory Coconut Planting Project (PCPP) and SFP, resolves to promote immediate and long-term coconut development to address declining coconut production, cope with increasing local and international markets’ demand for the crop, and reduce poverty in coconut-farming communities.
The PCPP aims to plant 13 million coconut seedlings on new lands totaling 138,125 hectares until 2016.
In 2011 3.11 million coconut seedlings were planted under this program. A fraction of these will be used to produce coconut methyl ester or coco-biodiesel, a lighter fuel that contains no odd-number carbon atom and is more volatile than diesel.
The Department of Energy said that coco-biodiesel combusts more efficiently, increases engine power and mileage, and reduces car emissions.
As the country implements the 10-percent biofuel blend, market demand for coco-biodiesel and other biofuels will continue to rise. Besides attaining energy security, the development of coco-biodiesel in the country is expected to create an additional 89,000 jobs for Filipinos and benefit 577,000 farming families.
About 32%, or 3.4 million hectares, of the country’s agricultural lands are planted with coconut, according to a 2009 Bureau of Agricultural Statistics study.
The PCA is using a different approach in planting this year by letting farmers, not just the government’s field workers, do the work.
This is why the program is called participatory, which is proving to be effective, given the eagerness of farmers to help and be engaged in planting, owing to the economic well-being they see in the project, Allorde said.
Increased coconut production will benefit 65 of the country’s 79 provinces, as well as the 25 million Filipinos who depend on the industry.
In Region 5 or Bicol, which includes Masbate, about 40 percent of its over 5.7 million population depend on the crop for their livelihood. - PNA