DA eyes coco sugar for $1B alternative sweetener market

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 27 2012 07:14 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2012 07:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture through the Philippine Coconut Authority (DA-PCA) is looking at developing the local coconut sap sugar or coco sugar for export to get a piece of the $1 billion market for alternative sweetener.

“In tandem with the private sector, we are crafting a master plan to promote coconut sap sugar overseas and win a big share of the $1.1-billion global alternative sweetener market,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala.

According to Alcala, the country will reinvigorate and diversify traditional farm exports like coconut oil, tropical fruits such as banana, pineapple and mangoes, tuna, sugar, and abaca, among others.

For emerging markets, he said the country is eyeing South Korea for avocados and chicken; China for bangus or milkfish, as Alsons Aquaculture Corp., based in Sarangani, has sent an initial shipment of nine tons of bangus to Xiamen; Japan and Malaysia, for pork.

For livestock and poultry, Alcala said “we will bank on our FMD- and bird flu-freedom to expand our markets in Asia, Middle East and the rest of the world.”

“These are just some of our initiatives meant to support the continued growth and prosperity of the food, agribusiness and agriculture industry,” the DA chief said.

Meanwhile, Alcala said that to reach the Aquino administration’s over all strategy to achieve food security, boost agri-fishery investments and raise rural incomes the DA has implemented various initiatives across its five major commodity programs (rice, corn, high value crops, livestock and fisheries).

Among the initiatives are - stronger focus on food safety and hygiene throughout the food supply chain, impose stringent standards and quality of rural infrastructure like irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads, and postharvest, drying and storage facilities.

This year, Alcala said 62 percent of DA’s more than P61-billion budget will go to rural infrastructure build-up. He said they will double efforts to make Philippine regulatory systems equal to the world’s best by consolidating services and improving both inspection and accreditation operations.

The DA recently set up an electronic portal system where importers and exporters can easily access information on food and feed safety regulations, and sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements to help facilitate trade, and ensure consistency and accountability among DA regulatory agencies.

The DA will also continue efforts to achieve equivalence between national standards and those of prospective foreign markets.

This includes establishment of a traceability system, which forms part of current Good Agricultural Practices and Good Animal Husbandry programs.

The DA through the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards continues to formulate and enforce standards of quality in the processing, preservation, packaging, labeling, import, export and distribution of primary agricultural and fisheries products.