THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is proposing to amend an executive order that bans the export of unprocessed mature coconut, as a measure to address low copra prices.

“[We proposed a new] option to address the low copra prices,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters last week.

“DA and PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority) proposed lifting of the ban on exporting mature coconuts. No feedback yet,” Mr. Piñol told BusinessWorld in a text message when asked for updates.

Executive Order 1016 was issued in 1985 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The Philippines is the world’s third-biggest coconut producer, and is the largest exporter of coconut products.

If the ban is lifted, the DA hopes to export 1,500 tons of mature coconuts initially.

The price of mature coconuts, used in making copra, the main precursor product to coconut oil, is dictated by world markets.

Mr. Piñol said the price is currently about P20 per kilogram at mill gate.

According to data from Philippine Statistics Authority, coconut output in the fourth quarter was estimated at 4.03 million metric tons, up 2.7% year-on-year.

The Davao Region was the top producer with a 12.8% share of total production. This is followed by Northern Mindanao with 12.2%, and Zamboanga Peninsula with 10.8%.

Undersecretary for Operations Ariel T. Cayanan said Sunday that the proposed measure is temporary in order to support copra prices, and added that there is a ready market in the Chinese province of Hainan, which imports mature coconut from Vietnam, Thailand and India for processing into coconut milk.

He downplayed fears that other countries will take over the mature coconut market and accordingly the market for coconut oil, though he said the Philippines has a “technology advantage” in coconut processing that will help keep it competitive. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang