DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 July) – A Mindanao farmers’ group urged the government to use a portion of the coconut levy fund worth P75 billion to assist the coconut farmers here venture into a value-adding enterprise to help them recover from the low market price of whole nuts and copra.
Romeo V. Ticon, project staff of the Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA)-Mindanao, said during “Wednesdays’ Habi at Kape” that the value-adding could give better opportunities to coconut farmers to earn bigger compared to sticking to whole nuts at a farm gate price of P4 and P14 to P15 a kilo for copra.
He said the farmers will push for a measure creating the Coco Levy Trust Fund during the Mindanao Farmers’ Conference at the Davao City Recreation Center on July 13.
In February 2019, President Rodrigo R. Duterte vetoed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Bill or the “Coco Levy bill” which lacked vital safeguards to avoid repetition of painful mistakes in the past, according to a report published on www.philstar.com.
“One of the issues that we plan to push is the Coco Levy fund, that a policy be created putting up the trust fund. That’s one of the agenda we will present during the conference,” he said.
Around 3,000 farmers of banana, coconut, oil palm, cacao, coffee, tropical fruits and cereals from all over Mindanao are expected to join the conference, according to Ticon.
He said the farmers are hoping that a law creating the trust fund be created to get the farmers out of poverty by revitalizing the coconut industry, which remains one of the country’s top agro-based exports.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that coconut export of the Philippines had reached $535.5 million from January to May 2019, lower by 20.1 percent compared to $670.1 million recorded in the same period of 2018.
Ticon said the trust fund should be used to revitalize the coconut industry.
He said one of the goals of the UNORKA-Mindanao is to empower the farmers on the value adding.
“We want to teach the farmers on how to do business and teach them to go into enterprise development. Otherwise, the farmers will drown in debts forever,” Ticon said.
He said the organizers of the conference, an activity supported by the European Union, will present the Mindanao agrarian reform framework and direction for peaceful transformation and development and request for policy support from both executive and legislative sectors of the government. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)