THE Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) board has decided not to lift the ban on exports of mature coconuts as copra prices improve and to support the country’s plan to enhance value-adding activities for the commodity, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said on Tuesday.

Keeping the export ban would also prevent other countries from copying Philippine coconut genetics “so we will sustain our competitive advantage,” he told reporters.

Lifting of the ban, which was imposed in 1985 to address low copra prices, was proposed under former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol.

About 1,500 tons of mature coconuts were earlier being eyed for exports.

The Philippines is the world’s third-biggest coconut producer and is the largest exporter of coconut products, with ready markets such as the Chinese province of Hainan, which imports mature coconuts from Vietnam, Thailand, and India for coconut milk processing.

Coconut production for the third quarter inched up 0.3% to 4.04 million metric tons, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang