Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food chair Sen. Cynthia Villar is pushing for the diversification of the country’s coconut farming system to help coconut farmers increase the income.
The senator explained it would help broaden their income source of local coconut farmers, whose earnings have lately been slashed by the plummeting prices of copra nationwide.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed National Expenditure Program for 2020 of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Villar said expanding the coconut farming system by inter-cropping cash crops like cacao, coffee and pineapple can generate higher returns for farmers.
Villar also proposed adopting multi-storied cropping systems for local planters, especially since the Philippines can only produce 70 percent its local coffee supply, another inter-cropping output.
“For instance, we don’t have an intercropping because we only produce 10,000 metric tons (MT) of cacao per year and our demand is 50,000 MT every year. We’re only producing 20 percent of our local demand. To compare us with Indonesia, it produces 550,000 MT of cacao every year,” Villar said.
“Currently, there is a net demand of one million MT of cacao abroad because South Africa, the biggest producers of cacao, got hit with ebola.”
According to Villar, inter-cropping of high-value crops is projected to help local farmers earn an additional P10,000 monthly income per hectare.
“All I’m saying is, we don’t have inter-cropping. If there is, it’s only minor. This is really about intercropping and processing. We don’t earn from the coconut tree that much. We earn from intercropping and we don’t have that,” she stressed.
Villar also chided the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for failing to alleviate the plight of local coconut farmers who have been reeling from low copra prices since January last year.
“There was a time the PCA budget was at P1 billion, a cut from P4 billion because they could not implement. Until now, they could not implement,” Villar said.
PCA is the sole government agency that is tasked to develop the local coconut industry to its full potential.
The senator thus directed Agriculture Secretary William Dar to implement various multi-cropping interventions, such as cacao, coffee and other crops that are properly growing in between coconuts.
Inter-cropping or growing more than one crap together in a field, according to Villar, has proven the many benefits it offers including better soil health, increased productivity, reduced pest pressure, improved harvestability and more profitability.
The senator added that perineal crops such as banana, coffee, and cacao provide more permanent cover to minimize soil erosions on hilly areas.
To do inter-cropping, coconut farmers would only need to determine which crops do their coconut farms need, as there are two types of crops that the farmers can use.
This includes the annual crops like corn, sweet potato and vegetable; and the perineal crops.