The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has urged various national agencies and local government units to serve buko juice in their special events and seminars instead of soft drinks to help the country’s coconut farmers who have been suffering because of falling copra prices around the world.
Speaking at the Summer Buko Fest last week at the PCA Regional Office in Palo, Leyte, PCA Eastern Visayas Manager Jeffrey delos Reyes said 3.5 million people in the region are dependent on the coconut industry. Since January last year, he said, the price of copra has shrunk by 60 percent—from P38 to P12 per kilo.
Officials are now exploring other opportunities for the coconut industry other than copra. “If one half of our population would drink buko juice every day, it will be a big help to our farmers,” the PCA official said. “We are creating opportunities to augment their income and not be copra-dependent.”
The coconut industry is part of Philippine agriculture, all of which is facing major problems today. In 2018, agriculture grew by only 0.9 percent and contributed only 0.1 percentage points to the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 6.2 percent for the entire year, according to then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
The rice industry, in particular, has been down, contributing to the sharp rise in the inflation rate last year. Filipino farmers have not been able to produce enough rice for local consumption, so that the government had to import hundreds of thousands of tons of rice from Vietnam and Thailand.
The immediate government solution has been the Rice Tariffication Law, allowing unlimited importation of rice after payment of a 35 percent tariff, where before, importations had required special permits from the National Food Authority. There should now be sufficient rice for our consumers, but it is imported rice. Our farmers are still unable to produce the rice we need in sufficient quantities and at costs our people can afford.
Last February, Secretary Diokno said the Duterte administration is prioritizing the agriculture sector this year, with the allocation of greater resources and credit assistance to farmers in production and marketing.
The Philippine Coconut Authority’s recent appeal for public support is in line with this overall effort to help Philippine agriculture. Filipinos should be able to buy and consume more Philippine rice, even if it costs a little more than the cheap imported kind. Similarly, Filipinos should be able to buy and consume more Philippine coconut products, such as buko juice, as the PCA officials are now pushing with the campaign they launched at the Summer Buko Fest last week.
The government is moving strongly to help Philippine agriculture. It will achieve greater success if Filipino consumers give their support.