Let us state the obvious: the coconut farmers are reeling from the impact of low copra prices and help is nowhere in sight.
In other countries, the agricultural sector is either heavily subsidized and protected or government makes technology available to ensure that farming becomes highly profitable.
The problem in the Philippines in relation to coconut production is that the government is highly dependent on the global market and has not, in any way, put in place new ways to ensure that incomes of farmers could go up such as making new technology available so that value-adding could be taken advantage of.
It has not adopted a new paradigm that would allow the industry to flourish. Instead, it has just introduced palliative solutions- like farm rehabilitation- to a very large problem.
The irony is that the industry has about P100 billion in funding that can be used to enhance production, rehabilitate old farms and introduce new farming methods like intercropping and value-adding processes. Until now, there is no concrete and comprehensive policy in relation to how to utilize the coconut levy fund, collected during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos from the coconut industry.
What government should do is to craft a comprehensive approach in providing added value to the crop. In simple terms, what it must do are come up with policies to enhance production and use technology to create new and high-value by-products that the market needs.
Unless the government is able to help coconut farmers adapt to the changing needs of the market, they will continue to suffer from the impact of the market that dictates how the commodity should be priced.
Help must immediately be implemented before the problem gets out of hand or before some groups take advantage of the situation.