The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is encouraging more coconut farmers to diversify into higher-value goods like coco sugar and virgin coconut oil rather than relying only on conventional copra production.
PCA Palawan acting division chief Arlo Solano said coco sugar has a significant potential particularly for individuals who are required to take less sugar.
While some farmers have already tried coco sugar production, Solano said these are small scale and intended mainly for household consumption and not for commercial purposes.
“Kung sa potential, potential siya kasi ang mga diabetic persons, ang hinahanap ay coco sugar. At saka (yung) mga health conscious, hinahanap nila ay ‘yong organic sugar. Kahit diabetic ka, hindi siya nakakaapekto, kumbaga nakakatulong siya na ma-stabilize lang ang katawan mo. Instead na mag-reactivate ‘yong diabetes, nako-control dahil organic itong coco sugar,” he said.
Recently, Solano trained some farmers to present the technology and demonstrate the actual processing operation to consider its sensitivity such as the pH content not exceeding level 6.
He believes that developing value-added goods would help farmers receive more profit and live better lives. Farmers should be entrepreneurs as well as producers, he said.
“May time element kasi sa sap harvesting ba, sa mga tapper natin dapat expert sila kasi may time element itong pag-gather ng sap, ‘yong tuba. Ang pH value dapat makuha, hindi dapat tumaas doon. At least five hours dapat ma-harvest ang tuba, iyon ang cycle,” he added.
Solano said some farmers have started producing coco sugar but did not push through with it due to insufficient budget to maintain the manpower.
“Pagdating naman sa demand sa market ng product, marami ngang naghahanap, [pero] wala naman tayong for commercial sa Palawan. Kaya ini-encourage natin ang cooperatives para kapag nakabuo at naging maganda ang production locally, ma-absorb na rin sa ating probinsiya at matulungan natin sila. Instead na mag-import tayo na galing sa ibang probinsya,” he said.
Most of the imported coco sugar products coming to Palawan are from Mindoro and CALABARZON areas.
PCA Palawan has additional ideas for adding value to its goods, but a shortage of personnel is one of the issues preventing them from being implemented, according to Solano.
Additional training are still needed to enhance the skills of farmers and even the food processing practices with the help of other agencies to establish the products. PCA-Palawan is now assisting cooperatives under their Kaanib Enterprise Development Project (KEDP), Solano said.
“Kapag na-establish ‘yong sabi natin na mini plan, kailangan pa rin ma-enhance ang training pagdating sa mga ganoong mga bagay. Pagkain kasi iyan kaya kailangan ang involvement ng other agencies like DTI, DOST, na naka-align sa hinihingi ng mga ahensya,” he said.
“Natuwa nga sila (farmers) kasi ang machineries ay provided ng PCA. Ang kanila ay raw materials, sila na bahala kumuha ng source ng sap,” he added.
PCA is aiming to develop the local market with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the development of marketing linkages and the marketability of the product.
The agency also looks at the potential of coco sugar to be a ‘pasalubong item’ in tourist spots of the province.
PCA-Palawan emphasized that the value-adding of products will bring 20 percent increase in income compared to depending on copra alone.
Aside from coco sugar, PCA also pushes the production of virgin coconut oil (VCO) to provide additional income opportunities. VCO showed favorable results and has been found to alleviate symptoms of mild and suspect COVID-19 cases, according to the study of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“In terms of VCO, kung ako magtingin ay opportunity (the pandemic) kasi hinahanap siya ng tao. Kumbaga ang demand niya, pangalawa, ang workers na nag-i-engage diyan, kung titingnan ang health protocols halos (compliant) naman kasi may kaniya-kaniyang areas of assignments naman ‘yan sila. Kaya ang operation ay hindi naman apektado,” he explained.