Written by Oliver Samson / Correspondent
“P14 per kilo is the lowest for copra in the last two years,” Lourdes Martizano, PCA officer in charge, said during an interview.
The price was expected to gain strength after August, when production started to decline, she said. But since the bulk of copra is exported, its local price is influenced by the international market, she noted.
In 2010 coconut farmers experienced a boon when copra sold for between P40 and P45 per kilo before its price finally took a dive early this year, Martizano said.
Copra did well to sustain its value until early this year, when local dealers were buying at P38 per kilo, Martizano said. It went down to P20 per kilo in the second quarter, dropped to P18 per kilo in the third quarter, until it went down to P14 per kilo in October, she added.
According to Martizano, the international market dictates the price of copra. When Bicol drops the price, the rest of the country also hit bottom.
The PCA official pointed to the leading coconut-producing countries in Asia as a primary reason for the drop in the price of local copra.
“One major cause for the drop in the price of copra is our competition with several Asian countries, like Indonesia, that had outdone the Philippines in coconut production,” she said, noting that “we had gone from being the top coconut exporter in the past to only the third at present.”
Eighty percent of Philippine copra is exported, with Europe taking in the largest volume of the export, and only 20 percent is processed and consumed locally, Martizano said.
With that figure, the production of oil abroad using alternative sources like corn, soybean and safflower also influences the drop in the price of local copra, she said.
To bring coconut growers some economic relief, the agency distributes free salt fertilizer to farmers. “The 6,696 bags of salt fertilizer, the last batch that arrived in September, were distributed to coconut farmers in the province’s 14 municipalities and one city,” Martizano said. “The recipients numbered more than 2,000, mostly small coconut farmers.”
The PCA had distributed a total of 9,829 seed nuts to farmers as replacement stock for senile coconut trees for the agency’s 60,000-hectare target size to replant, Martizano said. The province has 97,000 hectares of land planted to coconut.
Another batch of seed nuts totaling 7,900, still at the nursing stage in the municipality of Prieto Diaz, will be distributed to coconut farmers as soon as they are ready for planting.
The PCA budget is for the procurement of seed nuts only, Martizano said. It encourages local government units to meet the agency’s deficiency in fund by assuming the responsibility of nursing the young seed nuts until they are ready for distribution.
She said only 7.6 million of the province’s 9.5 million coconut trees are bearing fruits at present.
Based on the agency’s statistics, almost 50,000 farmers in the province are coconut-dependent.
Ernesto Enraca, a coconut farmer in Barcelona town, said three to four whole coconut meat, depending on size, accounts for 1 kilo of copra. He suggested that to maximize coconut land production, farmers should plant other high-value crops like banana and pili.
A whole fresh coconut sells for P8 to P10 in the wet market here, and from P22 to P35 in Metro Manila.
Martizano said the price of copra had taken its most devastating fall to P4 to P6 per kilo. Enraca and Teodorico Escanilla, another coconut farmer, said that happened late in the 1980s, when the price of copra hit the bottom rung and stayed there for more than half a year, after the fall of strongman Ferdinand Marcos.