Philippine Coconut Authority to turn Coconut fiber into Gold

Ivory Coastian coconut.Image via Wikipedia
An April 1, 2011 press release by the Department of Agriculture
Coconut fiber and peat or dust could be turned into gold.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said processing coconut fiber and peat into geotextiles and organic fertilizer or soil conditioner, respectively, could earn for the country millions of dollars in exports, and provide additional income and livelihood to hundreds of thousands of small coconut farmers and their families in the countryside.
The DA’s Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) estimates that the country produces some 12 billion coconuts annually.
“Collecting merely one-half or six billion coconut husks, and processing these into coco geotextiles and organic fertilizers, the country could generate at least $225 million annually,” said Sec. Alcala during the recent 1st coconut coir summit in Davao City.
For his part, PCA administrator Euclides G. Forbes said geo-textiles or “cocomats” serve as erosion control material that are laid on mountain slopes, river banks and dam embankments. Coconut fibers are also transformed into twine or yarn, while fine coco fibers are used in making beds or mattresses. Coconut peat or dust is used as organic fertilizer, soil conditioner, or animal beddings.
For every kilo of coconut husk, 30 percent or 300 grams of fiber or coir can be extracted, and the rest is coco peat or dust, PCA administrator Forbes added.
Secretary Alcala said the Department of Agriculture is spearheading the initiative through the PCA and Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) as instructed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who directed concerned government agencies to strongly support, promote, and develop the coco coir and peat industry to achieve its optimum production and export potentials for the benefit of millions of small farmers and rural folk who directly depend on the coconut industry as a major source of income and livelihood.
The DA will develop the fledgling coco fiber and peat industry in partnership with the departments of trade and industry (DTI), public works and highways (DPWH), and science and technology (DOST), small coconut farmers’ cooperatives and federations, and the private sector, particularly the Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association, Inc. and the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF).
“On exports, China remains one big untapped export market,” said Sec. Alcala. Other potential buyers of geo-textiles and coco peat organic fertilizer and soil conditioner are Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, and the US.
He said China alone imports 200,000 tons of coco fiber annually, driven by its increasing demand for mattresses, Secretary Alcala noted. Said demand has prompted the setting up of over 50 coir production workshops in the country, which are not enough, he added.
“In China, to date we only seize merely 0.05% of its coco fiber imports. The room for further growth is therefore immense,” the DA chief said.
The PCA said last year the country exported less than 5,000 metric tons (MT) of coconut coir worth roughly $6.5 million. Sri Lanka is the leading exporter, at more than 150,000 MT.
For his part, DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo said government aims to increase exports of coco geo textiles to at least $6.5 million by 2016.
The Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), an inter-governmental organization of 17 coconut producing countries, lists the Philippines as the second largest coconut-producing country in the world, where 3.4 million hectares are planted to coconut. Indonesia leads in area planted with 3.85 million hectares.
At the conclusion of the one-day 1st national coconut coir summit, leading stakeholders signed a statement of commitment to develop the country’s fledgling coconut fiber and peat industry. The signatories include Secretaries Alcala and Domingo, and representatives of other government agencies like the DPWH, DOST, PCA, FIDA, Coconut Industry Development Fund, and Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association.
The Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association (PhilCoir) welcomed its inclusion in the newly-created Special Inter-Agency Coconut Coir and Peat Development Task Force, composed of representatives from the DA, PCA, FIDA, DTI, DOST, and DPWH.
“We are highly appreciative of the recognition by the government of the importance and potential significance of the coco coir industry, and we are committed to working with the government in developing our industry,” PhilCoir said in a position paper presented during the summit.
The position paper also put forward pressing and strategic concerns for the coconut industry, alongside recommended solutions and courses of action.