By Connie Destura
LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol has plans to upgrade its existing coco water facility into a “coco hub” by combining coco water production with copra and virgin coconut oil (VCO) processing at the agency’s compound in Pili, Camarines Sur.
“We plan to upgrade the existing coco water facility into a business incubation facility for coco water and VCO before transferring the technology to the coconut farmers,” Elena delos Santos, DA-Bicol executive director, said in a phone interview.
She said the pilot project in Bicol will be done with the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) as partner.
Delos Santos, who is also PRDP project director, said that within the next three to six months the upgrading efforts will seek to enhance the coco water’s shelf-life and reduce the production cost per unit as well as the overall production performance of the facility.
She said DA will fine-tune the technology and operation of the facility so that when the operation is transferred to an organization it will be an income-generating enterprise for the proponent group.
Delos Santos said the facility and technology to be transferred to the farmer organization will be “comprehensive and perfected along coco water, VCO and other coconut by-products production.”
She added that once the facility is perfected, identified farmer organizations will be provided with a separate facility, funding of which will be generated from other sources.
“The coco water facility cum coco hub facility in DA-Bicol will serve as a training ground for farmer organizations in Bicol and other regions who are interested to venture into coco water, VCO and other coco by-products production,” said delos Santos.
Presently, the pilot facility at the DA compound has a small equipment for VCO processing.
“An additional area for VCO production will be established and a processing equipment will be procured to upgrade the existing facility,” she said.
According to delos Santos funding for this will be jointly shared by PhilMech (Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization) and DA-Bicol. PhilMech is a sub-agency of DA.
She said the PRDP project support office in South Luzon will provide P1 million for the operational expenses.
This will be in addition to the P1.53M allotted by PRDP-Bicol for the pilot testing of the village level coco water processing system.
The pilot project in Bicol will also serve as the model of PhilMech who will showcase the facility’s actual operation.
Delos Santos said the facility will also promote the “Be Cool” coco water being produced by the facility.
PhilMech also currently assists in a VCO and coco water production project in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, which is co-funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research.
She added PhilMech has a similar project in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato which is co-funded by the Philippine Coconut Authority.
Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics in 2013 showed that Bicol has 453,501 hectares of coconut area with a volume production of 1,240,458.84 metric tons.
Delos Santos sees bright prospects for the coco hub facility project as over 50 percent of the agricultural area in Bicol is planted to coconut.
She said if the project is brought to the level of the coconut farmers in Bicol this will mean additional value to their coconuts and will “generate additional income” for them.