PCA okays irradiation facility to boost coconut exports
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has approved a proposal to establish an irradiation facility in the country to boost coconut exports as the sector continues to suffer from record-low prices of copra.
The facility, which will cost the agency some P250 million, would be used to sanitize and disinfect products for export in accordance to the requirements of overseas markets especially Japan, South Korea, Europe, and the United States, as demand for the crop continues to grow.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, who also sits at the PCA board, said they were planning to build the facility in the Davao region – the country’s top coconut producer – to be operational by the middle of 2019.
“The PCA board… approved the proposal to establish the irradiation facility because of the great demand for coconut products overseas especially coco coir, which is used in greenhouse gardening…” Piñol said.
He added that the government had not cashed in on this export product earlier because it couldn’t adhere to the requirements of foreign buyers.
Coco coir is a growing medium made of fibrous coconut husks that are often mixed with soil to improve the growth of potted plants. Its popularity has grown since it holds water exceptionally well and promotes good drainage and aeration in plants.
According to the secretary, the irradiation equipment could “effectively kill 99.9 percent of pathogens in fruits, fish, sea products, processed food and food products,” and may also be used by other Filipino farmers and fishermen to improve the quality of their produce.
The establishment of the irradiation facility is just one of many programs that the PCA has in its pipeline following the slump in copra prices due to a supply glut in the international market.
Prices of copra have now dipped by close to 50 percent to P19.09 a kilogram from P37.02 a kilo year on year, which PCA administrator Romulo dela Rosa described as a “crisis point.”
The country’s coconut industry heavily relies on the sale of copra. To stabilize farmers’ profit, the government is beginning to diversify coconut products and exploring new markets to help around 3 million coconut producers – majority of whom are mired in poverty. /cbb
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