Resource: BusinessMirror       Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter
THE Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has set aside P160 million next year to purchase equipment that will boost the government’s bid to develop the coco-coir industry.

PCA administrator Euclides G. Forbes said a team from the agency went to Kerala, India to look for equipment that will be add value to coco coir fiber.
“Currently, we’re only using decorticating machines. The government wants to buy machines for tufting which will enable the creation of other products from coco coir such as rugs,” said Forbes in an interview.

He said the additional machines for coco coir have been programmed for purchase next year.

“[Manufacturers] may be able to start selling products made of coco coir by next year. Baka hindi muna sa export market, baka dito lang muna (in the Philippines) magbenta,” said Forbes.

The purchase of additional equipment for processing coco coir is part of the government’s push for non-traditional coconut products which include coconut water and virgin coconut oil.

Despite the huge potential of coco coir and coco peat, the Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association (Philcoir) noted that the country could not take full advantage of opportunities due to low buying, high cost of transportation, limited market awareness and the lack of matured technology.

The lack of financing support and program and policy support as well as inadequate research and development are also exacerbating the problems confronting players in the coco coir industry.

During the National Coco Coir Summit held in April 2011, stakeholders sought exemptions from value-added tax (VAT) imposed on local sales, exemption from duties and VAT on the importation of machinery and equipment and income tax holiday for new investments and ventures.

The PCA, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), estimates that the country produces some 12 billion coconuts annually.

The DA noted that collecting merely one half or 6 billion coconut husks and processing these into coco geotextiles and organic fertilizers would yield at least $225 million in export receipts annually.

Forbes said geo-textiles or “cocomats” serve as erosion control material that are laid on mountain slopes, river banks and dam embankments. Coconut fibers are also transformed into twine or yarn, while fine coco fibers are used in making beds or mattresses. Coconut peat or dust is used as organic fertilizer, soil conditioner, or animal beddings.

For every kilo of coconut husk, 30 percent or 300 grams of fiber or coir can be extracted, and the rest is coco peat or dust.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala noted that China is “one big untapped export market. Other potential buyers of geo-textiles and coco peat organic fertilizer and soil conditioner are Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, and the United States.

Alcala said China alone imports 200,000 metric tons (MT) of coco fiber annually, driven by its increasing demand for mattresses.

In 2010, the PCA noted that the Philippines exported less than 5,000 MT of coconut coir worth roughly $6.5 million. Sri Lanka is the leading exporter, at more than 150,000 MT.

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