Philippine coconut groups are quick to assure that local farmers do not use monkeys to harvest coconuts after a viral video showing monkeys harvesting coconuts in Thailand sparked strong reaction from consumers, animal rights activists, and other cause oriented groups abroad.
“The use of monkey labor in harvesting coconuts was never a practice in the Philippines throughout its long history of coconut farming,” leading coco industry advocacy group United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP) said.
It added that “Philippine production of 15 billion nuts annually is manually harvested by coconut farmers and farm workers.”
The animal rights group People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed a video of pigtailed macaques in Thailand working like “coconut-picking machines.”
After seeing the video, the UK Prime Minister’s fiancée Carrie Symonds, a conservationist, recently called on all supermarkets to boycott coconut products.
Experts say that a trained monkey can collect up to 1000 nuts per day, while an experienced human coconut picker can only get up to 80 on a good day.
But the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is quick to draw the line – there is no “monkey business” in the local coco farming practice.
“Philippine coconut farmers do not use monkeys in harvesting coconuts for local use, exports or even tourism purposes,” said Ret. Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno of the PCA’s Office of the Administrator.
Coconut trees dot an estimated 3.6 hectares of land in the Philippines and 3.5 million Filipinos are engaged in coconut farming.
The local arm of PETA also echoed its support for the Philippine coconuts farmers and industry.
In a statement, PETA said “Other coconut-growing regions — including the Philippines, India, Brazil, Colombia, and Hawaii — harvest coconuts for export using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders. Thailand can easily implement these humane methods, too.”
The group also made it clear that “PETA does not want coconut milk or oil to be banned. We only want monkeys to be removed from the coconut-picking process.”
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through the office of Secretary Roy Cimatu, also assured consumers, animal rights and cause-oriented groups that “the Philippines has high respect for animal rights, hence, (monkey farming) is a practice that is not done, encouraged, nor tolerated in our country.”
While the piece about the monkey video shot in Thailand created uproar and even calls for international boycott on coconuts sourced from similar animal labor farms, the United Coconut Association of the Philippines assures consumers that “the Philippines proudly offers itself as an alternative, ethically-sourced supplier of coconut products of the highest standards.”
Yearly export earnings of Philippine-harvested coconuts reach up to $2 billion, making the country the number one source of coconuts worldwide.