THE Philippine Coconut Authority said it is seeking suitable public land for the expanded planting of coconut trees.

“What we want (is) an inventory of public land where we can plant coconut… (and set up) a registry of coconut trees,” Gonzalo T. Duque, PCA administrator, told reporters.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) noted that coconut production in the first quarter of the year was slightly up 0.2% to 3.31 million metric tons (MT), year-on-year.

The top coconut producer was Davao Region, which contributed 14.4% to total production. It is followed by Zamboanga Peninsula (13.6%), and Northern Mindanao (12.9%).

“We need virgin coconut plants. We have been looking at the Visayas and Mindanao, and forgetting about Luzon… In three or six years, there will be enough trees,” he said.

Expanded coconut production, he said, might allow the country to take advantage of a European Union ban on palm oil use in biofuels, citing the deforestation caused by palm oil plantations.

The Philippines currently has an oversupply of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, which has adversely affected the coconut industry.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that exports of palm oil to the Philippines by Indonesia and Malaysia have increased by 100% over the last three years.

Mr. Duque said the PCA will push for intercropping coffee and cacao in coconut farms, as well as raising livestock to raise farmer incomes.

“I think many farmers will convert to planting coconut trees given the right incentives. While waiting for their coconuts to bear fruits, they can have some other plants… so that they may earn every season,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar and Senator Cynthia A. Villar have backed intercropping.

Ms. Villar said coffee and cacao have the potential for raising farmers’ incomes by about $200 per month.

Mr. Dar said that he hopes to involve the private sector more with farmers, so both could work together in growing the coconut industry. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang