NGO bullish on PH coco fiber industry

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 25 2011 03:43 PM | Updated as of Nov 26 2011 02:18 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Coco coir, or fibers from coconut husks, can be a source of income for communities in the country's coconut-rich areas, according to the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI).

The FSSI warned against the long term strategy of exporting raw coco fibers, but instead suggested the export of high-value products with coconut fibers.

"We have been in the coco coir business as a major social enterprise for 10 years.  We need to do is to scale up, upgrade and involve more communities.  So far, we have helped some 6,510 poor individuals as workers, subcontractors and craftsmen through our various social enterprises thereby stimulating local economies with sustainable use of available local resources," FSSI executive director Jay Bertram Lacsamana said, in a statement.

The government is also bullish on the coco coir industry, approving the Philippine Coco Coir Development Plan  2011-2016.  The government projects $6.5 million in exports of coco-fibers to China and other countries in the next five years.

Lacsamana said the FSSI "does not fully encourage" the export of raw, unprocessed fiber to other countries as a long-term strategy, since this will give jobs to Chinese twinners and weavers.

"The finished products are then used in Chinese infrastructure or exported as coco-nets or used as materials for infrastructure projects financed by Chinese development assistance in other developing countries. Exporting raw fiber to China provides employment to Chinese workers, denying work and value adding from our local twinners and weavers," Lacsamana said.

FSSI pushed for the use of coco-fibers in high value-added, locally made products such as twinned ropes, weaved nets, rubberized plant liners, mattresses and bio logs, which will then be exported.

"The potential for the Coir industry is indeed huge not only in terms of boosting our export receipts but coming from the coco coir  social entrepreneurs, we hope that the industry will boost incomes of coconut farmers and help in poverty reduction,” he said.

The Philippines has 3 million hectares of coconut plantations in 68 provinces and 1,195 municipalities throughout the country, producing approximately 15 billion nuts a year.

The issues on coco coir industry will be discussed in a forum "Social Enterprises in the Coco Coir Industry: Nurturing Business Chains that Matter to the Poor," on November 28 (Monday) at the SM Megatrade Hall Function Room (5th Floor Building B).

FSSI is a non-profit organization that provides investments for social enterprises, and pioneered in developing the coco coir industry. Its subsidiary Pilipinas Eco-Fiber Inc. has been producing geonets, plant liners, bed liners for export and the local market.