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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through the Foreign Trade Service, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) held an online multi-stakeholder series of consultations on the assessment of organic certification in the virgin coconut oil (VCO) value chain last July 28, 29, 30 for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao respectively. This series follows after President Duterte’s directive in his Fifth State of the Nation Address for DTI and the Departmetn of Agriculture to come up with agri-business and entrepreneurship projects.

Following the success of the first technical working group (TWG) on VCO organic certification held in November 2019, the three-day online series of consultations convened almost 300 participants from coconut oil industry stakeholders including coconut oil workers, tenants, farmers and middlemen, as well as coconut oil processors and exporters across the country. With the help of DTI Region 8 Regional Director and National Industry Cluster Coordinator for the Coconut Industry Celerina Bato in ensuring representation across industry actors, representatives from key institutions including non-government institutions, farmer cooperatives, and producers’ associations also participated.

During the Mindanao breakout session, DTI Region XI’s Provincial Director for Davao del Sur Delia Ayano encouraged the attendees to actively participate, and emphasized that the results of the discussions will be used as further inputs to the National Action Plan (NAP) on VCO organic certification initially drafted from inputs during the first TWG.

DTI-FTSC Executive Director Magnolia Ashley in presenting the draft NAP to the participants explained that this activity addresses one of the coconut industry’s objectives to help coconut farmers achieve vertical integration in the coconut industry and directly benefit from the industry’s growth and development.  She also noted that while the pandemic has prevented holding meetings face-to-face, the online platform enabled wider participation among stakeholders across the country.

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DTI Export Marketing Bureau Assistant Director Anthony Rivera discussed the significance of the NAP to the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022. He stressed that coconut oil is the 12th top export of the Philippines, being the largest exporter of coconut oil in the world.

PCA’s Trade Information & Relations Division Chief Luz Brenda Balibrea also presented the Coconut Industry Roadmap and insights on transforming the coconut industry through “agribusinessizing.”  She proposed that to “agribusinessize” the Philippine coconut industry is crucial because the industry has the longest value chain, is export-oriented, and involves coconut farms that are generally smallholders. 

In the breakout sessions, participants discussed the policy options from an UNCTAD study on organic certification in the Philippine coconut oil value chain. The participants discussed various challenges such as the costs and administrative burdens involved in getting organic certification, low local demand, too few organic certifying bodies, lack of incentives to comply with standards, low productivity, and lack of adequate subsidies program. They also identified appropriate policy interventions for both the short- and long-term including enhancing the knowledge of producers, providing access to resources and facilities, strengthening partnerships, fostering a competitive organic certification body (OCB) sector), creating an innovative certification system, and creating a domestic market.

The online consultation series will culminate into the second TWG on VCO organic certification scheduled this month to finalize and present the NAP to various coconut oil industry actors. The NAP will contribute to Strategy 3 of the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2018-2022, which is to design comprehensive packages of support for selected products and services sector, the upcoming Coconut Industry Development Roadmap (CIDR) and Coconut Coordination Committee. ♦

Date of Release: 6 August 2020