There’s gold in coconut husk

The Department of Agriculture says processing coconut fiber and peat into geo-textile or organic fertilizer could generate millions of dollars in exports as well as provide livelihood to thousands of small coconut farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said collecting merely six billion coconut husks, or one half of the country’s production, and turning them into coco geo-textile and organic fertilizer could generate at least $225 million yearly.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) estimates that the country produces 12 billion coconuts annually.

PCA administrator Euclides Forbes said geo-textile serves as erosion control material.

Geo-textiles are placed on the tension surface of slopes to strengthen the soil.

Erosion control manuals cite the effectiveness of sloped, stepped shapes in mitigating shoreline erosion damage from storms.

Forbes added that coconut fibers are transformed into twine or yarn, while fine coco fibers are used in making beds or mattresses, and that coconut peat or dust is used as organic fertilizer, soil conditioner, or animal bedding.

He said for every kilo of coconut husk, 300 grams of fiber or coir can be extracted and the rest is coco peat.

“On exports, China remains one big untapped export market. The country imports 200,000 tons of coco fiber annually, driven by its increasing demand for mattresses,” said Alcala,

That demand prompted the setting up of over 50 coir production workshops in the country, which are not enough, he said.

“In China, to date we only seize merely 0.05 per cent of its coco fiber imports. The room for further growth is therefore immense,” Alcala said.

Other potential buyers of geo-textile and coco peat organic fertilizer and soil conditioner are Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, and the United States.

The PCA said last year the country exported less than 5,000 metric tons (MT) of coconut coir worth roughly $6.5 million. Sri Lanka is the leading exporter, with more than 150,000 MT.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said the government aims to increase exports of coco geo-textile to at least $6.5 million by 2016.

An inter-governmental organization of 17 coconut-producing countries like the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) has listed the Philippines as the second-largest coconut-producing country in the world.

The organization said the country has 3.4 million hectares coconut plantation, while Indonesia is the biggest grower with 3.85 million hectares.

The DA will develop the fledgling coco fiber and peat industry in partnership with the DTI, the Department Public Works and Highways, the Department of Science and Technology, small coconut farmers’ cooperatives and federations, and the private sector, particularly the Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association Inc. and the Coconut Industry Investment Fund.

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