The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Eastern Visayas regional office in Palo, Leyte. (File photo)
TACLOBAN CITY -- The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has expressed alarm over the operation of palm oil processors in coconut-producing Eastern Visayas region.
The expansion of palm oil processing in Leyte and Samar provinces last year is a threat to the region’s economy since palm is a major competitor of coconut oil in the global market.
San Vic Oil Mill based in San Isidro, Northern Samar and Visayan Oil Mill in Baybay City in Leyte shifted to palm oil from coconut oil last year as demand for the competing products went up.
“Palm oil is cheaper than coconut oil since the latter is a premium oil. There has been an increasing demand for palm not only for oil processing but for cosmetics as well. The inflow of palm oil has increased so fast that it hurt our coconut industry,” said PCA Eastern Visayas Regional Manager Jeffrey Delos Reyes in an interview Wednesday.
To control the situation, the Department of Agriculture is looking at putting some restrictions. such as importing the right volume of raw materials based on the average consumption in the past three years.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol in January said the government is seriously considering possible tightening up on palm oil importations, particularly those coming from Indonesia, to prevent it from flooding the local market.
Piñol noted that Indonesia exports USD1 billion worth of agricultural products to the Philippines, mainly palm oil.
Palm oil is one of the most widely-consumed vegetable oils around the world, with significant usage in food, cosmetic, hygiene products, biofuel, and a variety of other sectors.
In recent years, Indonesia has been dominating the global palm oil industry with the world’s largest palm oil production and surging exports.
Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of matured and harvested coconut while palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the oil palm fruit.
Adding to the financial woes of coconut farmers is the plunging copra price this year affecting the livelihood of thousands of families in Eastern Visayas.
Farm gate trading price of copra, one of the by-products of coconut, dropped to PHP12.17 per kilogram as of the end-February from PHP31.94 in the same period in 2018 and PHP36.44 in 2017.
The government has no control over the fluctuating copra price since it is dictated by the global oil market dominated by palm oil and soybean oil with a share of 35 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
The copra price drop has been affecting 367,234 coconut farmers in the Eastern Visayas region. It is estimated that 1.83 million people or nearly half of the region’s 4.4 million population are dependent on coconut.
Eastern Visayas is one of the top coconut-producing regions in the country with 615,926 hectares planted areas producing 1.08 million nuts every year. (PNA)