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Investing For Long Term Development : Coconut Farmers As Owners Of Modern Processing Plants

The farmers are hurting badly due to low prices. But this industry need not be in crises really. Believe it or not the Philippines has the resources like: skills, assets, good logistics, engineering and marketing savvy, to pursue a program that will give coconut farmers a chance to improve their lot. By reducing dependence from coconut oil, whose profits arc characteristically chancy, we can go for olcochemicals and other non traditional products which, by their high value, are an excellent hedge against weak coconut oil prices. If for example sufficient capacities were available today to manufacture olcochemicals, the I million tons crude coconut oil exported annually can add USD 500 million more in foreign exchange receipts quite apart from boosting copra prices. To provide the muscle for a comprehensive development is a strong resolve on the part of President Arroyo to get things done - which is to move the Courts to release a US S 2 billion of coconut farmers money that was taxed decades ago and then frozen, a victim of judicial slumber and government apathy. The contentious issue surrounding the freeze is whether this fund is ptdilic in nature (meaningfrom the farmer's pockets) or private. There is absolutely no doubt that millions of hapless coconut farmers had generated these monies thru coercive taxation set by a cruel government then. Sooner or later the Courts will have to make that momentous decision. And I believe that justice will prevail as clearly, truth and morals are on the side of the fanners. With a strong lobby. President Arroyo must take affirmative action, a historic challenge for her young government. A trained economist she understands poverty and its potential destabilizing effects on the economy. She is at home with programs to create profit opportunities - as she is familiar with the theme that to put our economics in order we also have to put our judicial systems and politics in order. She may well "damn the torpedoes " to turn things around in the farmlands. This fund is a terrific wealth generator. The idea of getting into high value downstream products from coconut oil has arrived. Let us seize the moment and give farmers hope that things can be better.

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