Friday, May 2, 2014

DA sees coconut coir as sunshine industry for Albay

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 1 (PNA) – Coconut coir or geonet manufacturing has an existing total market value of Php 5 billion and a market potential of Php 12 billion per year—an earning opportunity that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) regional office for Bicol here is helping Albay province to take advantage of.

Geonet manufacturing, which makes use of coconut husks, is something profitable that the province is getting into, Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director, on Thursday said.

In fact, he said, the Regional Program Advisory Board (RPAB) which provides guidance, reviews and approves sub-projects for funding under the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) has already approved in principle the proposed geonet manufacturing project for the province.

The RPAB is a multi-sectoral group headed by Bragas with a member of the league of provinces in the region as vice chair.

Its members include among others, the regional heads of the Departments of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Science and Technology (DOST), Trade and Industry (DTI), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Budget and Management (DBM) and Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The DPWH is involved in providing technical support in the design of farm-to-market roads and bridges and coordination to complement with the national road network plan, which is also a component of the PRDP.

DOST will provide access to research activities and transfer of developed technologies related to agriculture products and processes; DTI for enterprise development; and DSWD as support to Conditional Cash Transfer Program.

DBM, DILG and DSWD are also involved in a more participatory planning and budgeting through involvement of grassroots organizations and communities.

The RPAB approval of Albay’s proposed coco coir project came following Gov. Joey Salceda’s presentation of the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP) during a recent meeting of the RPAB where he expressed confidence that the province could get 30-percent share of geonet market.

PCIP, which is a product of the value chain analysis and interventions focused on the identified commodity, is a requirement for fund allocation from the PRDP that would be released directly to the province.

PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by DA in Bicol as a platform for a modern and climate smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php 27.535-billion in total fund -- consisting of Php 20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php 3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php 3.118 billion equity of the local government units and Php 287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility.

It involves 80 provincial local government units and agri-fishery stakeholders nationwide in an attempt to realize the goals of improved food security and increased incomes, climate resiliency and enhanced environmental policies and governance.

Its implementation from 2013 to 2019 has identified four -- Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon—of the six provinces in Bicol as beneficiaries that the DA are also pushing into investments for Agri-Fishery Microfinance Program (AFMP) to support farmers and fisherfolk engaged in priority commodities.

AFMP is a joint program of the DA, the Agricultural Credit Policy Counciland the Land Bank of the Philippines to improve the incomes of small farm and fishing households through improved access to financial services that can help enable them to diversify income sources and improve the profitability of their main agricultural or fishing activities.

When finally approved, Bragas said, the funding assistance that Albay’s coco coir project would be getting from the PRDP is for the acquisition of decorticating machines, apart from other requirements of its implementation.

Albay was chosen as among the beneficiaries with coconut as the priority commodity focused on coco coir as identified under the province’s Value Chain Assessment.

The coco coir project, Bragas said, will have a big impact on the coconut industry of the province since 95,794 hectares of its total 158,262 hectares agricultural land is planted to the crop.

Coco coir production involves the processing of waste coconut husks to superior coir which is now highly in demand industrial commodity here and abroad.

China alone requires 10,000 tons of coco fiber per year and locally, Bragas said, more and more large plantations like Dole Philippines are using cocopeat for their pineapple plantation which attained 12-percent production increase with its use, he said.

Coco coir is an effective water filter and among its uses are absorbent, good insulation material, as possible replacement for asbestos, non-carcinogenic; good for soundproofing; good for soil conditioning and aeration.

It is biodegradable but does not easily decompose.

Materials for erosion control like coco fiber net, coco peat block, coco peat brick, and coco peat tiles could also be developed.

Fiber net is made from 100-percent coir fiber woven into high strength nets for extreme slope stabilization, protection of high velocity intermittent flow channel.

The coco fiber roll or fascine made from 100-percent decorticated coconut fiber compressed in tubular nylon netting and the coco fiber mat made of coco coir fiber stitched into mats of different specifications are used as wall proof and roof insulation, furniture liners, mulching materials, grass mats and erosion control blankets.

Coco peat block is coconut coir dust sieved in five millimeter mesh, sun-dried and sterilized at 120 degrees centigrade and compressed.

These coco blocks could easily be broken by simply adding 30 liters of water to one block and they are suitable for nurseries.

While coconut farming is considered a sunset industry due to low buying price of copra, the coco fiber industry has a bright prospect to become a sunshine industry and be the Albay’s coconut farmers’ hope for a better and more prosperous life, Bragas added. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB