24 July 2020

By Ma. Melvin A. Joves

Food and Agri-Marine Division (FAMD) | DTI-Export Marketing Bureau 

The Philippine coconut is once again showing its never-ending versatility.  This single agricultural product is also a huge contributor to the country’s economy with an estimated export volume of 2 million metric tons in 2019, according to the United Coconut Associations of the Philippine (UCAP), in copra terms.  For exports alone, the coconut sector offers more than USD2B revenue annually. 

Despite the enormous gain the industry yields out of this fruit, product innovations have continued to flourish to the behoof of the coconut farmers and the country.  

VCO as anti-Covid agent 

Just recently, Professor Fabian Dayrit of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), currently Vice President of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), shared the results of a study he conducted with Cebu City’s Dr. Jose Ray Mondejar, which showed that 20 inmate-patients of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) had recovered from a mild strain of coronavirus in April and May when they regularly took tablespoons of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) .  

In another report sourced from Nutraingredients-asia, the Philippine Council on Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) has announced that it would test a “coconut oil” in infected patients with Covid-19 as coconut oil and its derivatives have been studied previously for its antiviral properties  

These on-going efforts have recently been viewed to have influenced the surge of domestic demand for coconut oil products, and traditional coconut products in general.  The Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), owner of Minola brand, experienced more than 20% increase in its sales since the start of the pandemic. According to Mr. Mamerto Bernardo, VP for Domestic and Export Sales, the spike in the demand may be good; however, the low production experienced by our coconut farms impedes deliveries. Mr. Bernardo said low farm output was a result of the recent typhoon that hit Bicol region, and the seasonal low production of coconut trees coming from a 3-year high-yielding season.  CIIF operates several oil milling and refining plants in Luzon and Mindanao. 

In addition, delays in the movement of copra as a result stringent quarantine policy imposed by local government units (LGUs) also augmented the problem.  

Another producer Malabon Soap and Oil Industrial Co., Inc. also hinted a significant improvement in domestic sales but was affected by delays in the arrival of imported materials needed for their processing line such as activated carbon (as deodorizer) due to work interruptions in the shipping companies.  

Despite the pandemic, interests on coconut oil products have recently reached the Department of Trade and Industry-Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB) via the Trade Opportunity Reports (TORs) from the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Mexico (organic refined, bleached, and deodorized [RBD]), Germany (candle oil),  Dubai ( VCO), and Turkey (VCO).   

Buyers from other countries have likewise showed interest in other coconut products like Russia (coconut crisps), Australia (coconut water), Japan (coconut milk), China 

(fresh coconut), and Dubai (RBD, charcoal briquettes, coco sugar, and VCO). 

Coconut vinegar as local apple cider 

Harvested in the oldest and tallest coconut trees, the lowly coconut vinegar is a favorite dip in the country and has amassed a generous number of followers overseas where Filipinos abound. This popular household condiment has grossed more than USD5M in the last 10 years according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). However, local suppliers felt that the numbers are not enough to put coconut vinegar among the world’s top condiments list.  Perhaps because coconut vinegar has been in the local market for a very long time, yet its distinct usefulness is sorely missed.  When sold in the market, coconut vinegar is not properly labelled, thus, the consumers are not aware of them in the local market.   

In a technical report released by the Laboratory Services Division of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) early this year, coco vinegar’s use had gone to food preparation, food preservation, or even medical uses.  It is touted as low-value food products. The entry of contaminated synthetic/glacial acetic acid made it difficult for natural coconut vinegar to thrive even in our domestic market. 

Ms. Clara Lapus, Chair of the DTI-EMB Condiments Cluster, one of the food clusters created by the agency which aims to provide venue to discuss industry concerns, said that coconut vinegar can be the country’s local version of the popular US-made apple cider vinegar (ACV).   

ACV is a vinegar made from fermented mashed apple while coconut vinegar is a vinegar from fermented and acetificated coconut sap or water (PCA, 2020).   

Similarly, a nutrition site, Bulletproof.com, enumerates some of the common benefits of coconut vinegar and ACV in order to show significant similarities.  Both contain good bacteria and enzymes, and   antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Both vinegars also contain acetic acid, a compound that can help lower blood sugar.  The only difference is that coconut vinegar tastes sweeter and milder than apple cider vinegar, making it a solid alternative for anyone who finds ACV too acidic. In addition, the local coconut vinegar or “suka” is chock-full of nutritious amino acids, B vitamins, and prebiotics (a food source for “good” gut bacteria). It is ACV is a famous condiment and sometimes taken as food supplements by others because of its beneficial effects to human health.  It has long reigned as a go-to solution for fat-burning, nutrient absorption, and clearer skin.   

The PCA technical report concluded that pure coconut sap vinegar contains a predominantly higher potassium value than ACV.   The former is comparatively at par with ACV in terms of availability of nutrients and other substances beneficial to human health.  

Next time you go shopping for vinegar, choose pure coconut vinegar instead. 


San Juan, R. (2020, July 21). Virgin coconut oil found ‘very promising’ in COVID-19 prevention, management. Philippine Star. https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/health-and-family/2020/07/21/2029583/virgin-coconut-oil-found-very-promising-covid-19-prevention-management

Suazo, A. (2019, March 27). Coconut vinegar: Legit superfood, or health hype? Here’s what you need to know. Bulletproof. https://www.bulletproof.com/diet/superfoods/coconut-vinegar/

Lim, G. Y. (2020, March 11). Coconut and COVID-19: Philippines studying antiviral properties of coconut oil as potential treatment. NUTRAingredients-asia.com. https://www.nutraingredients-asia.com/Article/2020/03/11/Coconut-and-COVID-19-Philippines-studying-antiviral-properties-of-coconut-oil-as-potential-treatment