Thursday, 24 May 2012 11:19
A former senator has called on the government to help the country's 3.5 million coconut farmers diversify and build viable cooperatives due to the crash in copra prices that might aggravate hunger in the months ahead.
"Falling copra prices ¬-- now P29 per 100 kilos compared to P40 (per 100 kilos) last year -- are hurting small farming households, including agrarian reform beneficiaries, in a big way," said former Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri.
"Families dependent on coconut farming are now in a very rough patch wherein their incomes are suddenly falling, while prices of prime commodities are skyrocketing," he noted.
Zubiri said these households clearly face greater risk of being unable to meet their daily food requirements, and are thus extremely vulnerable to hunger.
The remarks of the former senator from Mindanao came shortly after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted in March showed that some 4.8 million families experienced hunger at least once in the past three months -- 300,000 more than the 4.5 million households that faced starvation in a similar poll in December.
"Diversification is key to the economic survival of small growers facing severe hardship, with the farm gate price of copra now down to as low as P15 per kilo from P40 a year ago," said Zubiri.
As such, he urged the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to help coconut planters expand their sources of farm income via inter-cropping.
"Short-season and high-value crops in between coconut trees will surely help," Zubiri said, adding that corn, peanut, banana, cacao, coffee or pineapple may be cultivated in coconut farms.
The PCA should also encourage farmers to put up cooperatives to help them sell copra wholesale at superior prices, he added.
Zubiri said cooperatives can eliminate traders who take advantage of cash-strapped farmers.
The Philippines is the world’s largest exporter of copra, from which coconut oil is extracted. Crude and refined coconut oil is used in food, detergents and biofuels.
Coconut oil exports have nose-dived by 41.5 percent due to the general economic slowdown in the U.S. and Europe.
The country shipped out some 209,256 metric tons (MT) of coconut oil from January to April this year as against the 357,622 MT over the same period in 2011.
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