Go loco over coco, packers urged

COCONUT husks and fiber are seen awaiting takers at the compound of the Aurora Agri-Ventures Producers Cooperative in Sitio Tabing Ilog at the town of Baler, Aurora. | PHOTOGRAPH BY JONAS REYES FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

The coconut tree, deemed the tree of life by the Filipino masses, is in need of resuscitation. Here’s why.

At the Aurora Agri-Ventures Producers Cooperative in Sitio Tabing Ilog in the town of Baler, coco peat and fiber, as well as the coconut husks they are derived from, could be seen aplenty.

This was in December of 2022, with the stockpiles an indication of the raw materials going unsold.

Juliebeth Go, the cooperative’s general manager, said that the demand for coconut products has been low for some time now, with coco peat the only relatively fast-mover.

Coco peat is used as a seed starter to improve soil aeration for optimal root growth while adding to the nutrients needed by plants to grow robustly.

The “plantitos” and “plantitas” — ordinary folks who took to planting as a hobby before the pandemic hit — contributed immensely to coco peat sales as a starter medium for home and lawn plants.

Alas, the “plantita” phenomenon proved to be just a fad that failed to sustain the hobbyists’ enthusiasm sapped in part by Covid-related lockdowns. Going out, or down, with the fad would be the demand for coco peat.

Deeper into the coop’s compound can be found mountains of coconut coir or fibers and husks. The fibers have a wide range of industrial uses such as in making mats, brushes, mattresses, automobile dashboards, insulation and packaging.

From the husks come the coir and the peat: All of which are raw materials that have very few takers presently.

Portent of things

According to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, or PCAARRD, of the Department of Science and Technology, coconut production from October to December 2022 hit 4.24 million metric tons.

The figure was higher by just one percent from the 4.20 million MT produced for the same period in 2021.

The area planted with coconut from July to December 2022, on the other hand, was recorded at 3.59 million hectares, a less than one-percent drop from the previous year’s 3.62 million hectares.

The decrease in land allocation might be minute, but it could serve as a portent of more bad things to come in 2023.

Go said that barely keeping the coop afloat was the use by some industries of coco fiber as shipment packaging in place of the more prevalent plastic packing materials.

Here, she stressed the coconut industry would certainly appreciate any help it can get in pushing more industries to use coconut materials in packing their products.

As coconut is biodegradable, she stressed that packaging materials made from it are environmentally friendly while plastic is a top contributor to pollution in the world.

Carbon footprint

“The carbon footprint of bio-packaging made from coco fiber is significantly smaller compared to any other material, more so when ranged against plastics,” she pointed out.

But unless the coconut industry gets enough support from the government for the public and private sectors to utilize coconut fiber as the go-to material for packaging, farmers, and cooperatives may soon find sticking with planting coconut untenable.

Presently, the Department of Trade and Industry headed by Secretary Alfredo Pascual is helping the coconut farmers of Aurora by providing them and the Aurora Agri-Ventures Producers Cooperative with loans to procure needed machinery.

The DTI, the coop said, has been promoting the use of coco peat and fiber by industries and the masses through trade fairs that connect groups with the coconut industry.

Such trade fairs by DTI, as vehicles for business-to-business interactions, are serving to transfer knowledge and to pique interest on bio-packaging as an alternative to artificial materials like plastics.

For Go and the cooperative she manages, the government is certainly headed in the right direction promoting bio-degradable coconut as a raw material with many uses She just expressed a wish for the campaign to not lose steam like the fad that was the “plantita” phenomenon that left coco farmers hanging high and dry.

Read more Daily Tribune stories at: https://tribune.net.ph/

Follow us on social media
Facebook: @tribunephl
Youtube: TribuneNow
Twitter: @tribunephl
Instagram: @tribunephl
TikTok: @dailytribuneofficial