Coco farmers in Davao region want community-based processing hub

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 September) — Coconut farmers in the region are asking for the establishment of a community-based coconut processing hub so that profits from the sales of coconut products and by-products would reach them, an official of an advocacy group said.

In an interview Monday at the sidelines of the weekly Kapehan sa SM, Kilos Magniniyog national coordinator Socrates Banzuela said it was not the farmers who benefited from the sale of the coconut products, but the millers and landowners.

He said the processing hub would handle an average of 5,000 coconuts every day, with a cluster of barangays running it together.

The hub would integrate the processing of the coconuts for juice, oil, milk, cheese, and catsup, among other products.

“We want to explore and develop the industries on a pilot basis,” he said. “Sayang ang market.”

He said coconut farmers were getting no immediate incentive from the government despite claims by agencies like the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Department of Agriculture that coconut has a high demand abroad.

He said the coconut industry has a huge demand from countries importing coconut wine, sugar, soy sauce, and lambanog.

“There is no determined action from the government ever since to push for the alternative products,” he said.

Banzuela said the average income of coconut farmers was P12,000 to P18,000. “But that’s only when it is the farmer who owns the land.”

He said tenant-farmers only got one-fourth to one-third of the profit.

In a statement, Kilos Magniniyog said a “copra culture” had prevented the farmers from engaging in other business ventures.

Banzuela said farmers have not maximized the potential for the coconut water market since they did not have direct access to the supply-chain of their harvest.

He added tenants could not even intercrop with crops such as cacao nor raise hogs because the landowners fear the nuts would be fed to the animals.

“On average, there are 100 trees per hectare for each farmer,” he said, referring to farmers whose average area was was one hectare.

Banzuela spoke at the Kapehan sa SM on behalf of farmers who planned to march to Malacanang for 71 days to demand the release of the P71-billion coco levy fund. (MindaNews)