Press Releases

Salceda hopes BBM admin will include smallest coconut farmers, crop diversification in coconut industry programs under Coco Levy Fund

June 16th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) hopes that the administration of President-elect Marcos will ensure that “marginal farmers” or small coconut farmers who are not members of coconut farmer associations will still be able to benefit from the P75-billion Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, which was created last year under Republic Act No. 11524. 

“There are two areas that are not very well-articulated in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which is the guiding blueprint for the use of the Coco Levy Trust Fund. One is marginal or small-scale farmers, who are the poorest of the poor, both nationwide and as a subsector of the coconut industry. The second area of concern is crop diversification and inter-cropping, which is the best way to make coconut farmers more profitable and productive, peso-per-peso,” Salceda said.

Salceda says he hopes that the incoming Marcos administration will be open to “tweaking” the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which was approved by President Duterte under Executive Order No. 172, s. 2022, which he signed June 8 this year. 

Albay, which Salceda represents, has 277.2 thousand coconut farms, making the coconut sector one of the largest sources of employment in the province.

“I have recently had a consultation on the agriculture sector early this week with key agriculturists, including national scientists, agricultural economists, agri-engineers, and others,” Salceda said, referring to discussions he has had during a UP Los Banos convocation where he was keynote speaker this week.

“We have come to the conclusion that the best way to lift Coconut farmers out of poverty is to diversify their cropping, so that they are not so vulnerable to the price cyclicalities of the sector. Estimates suggest that 50% of coconut farmers fall below the poverty line. More than double the national average. So, to lift the coconut industry includes lifting the coconut farmers out of poverty.”

“We are the largest or the second largest exporter of coconut products in the world, at around P15 billion annually. And we can do better with value-added. But you can’t do value-add if farmers are not bankable, and to be bankable, they have to be, at the very least, non-poor. So, farmer income is key to developing the coconut sector,” Salceda added.

“We also have to help small farmholders consolidate, either through farm consolidation, or through cooperativism. That means we may need some farm consultants or managers sent to coconut-producing areas. I recall that the Irrigator Development Officers during my time as Governor of Albay were the field consultants we used to grow rice cultivation by 50%, become one of the largest camote producers in the country, and to make farm practices more sustainable. I think a similar approach could be adopted for coconut farming.”

“Hopefully, we can dialogue with the new Secretary of Agriculture, whoever that person will be, very soon on this,” Salceda added.

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