As the second largest producer of coconuts in the world, the Philippines fills in a significant portion of the world’s demand for what experts are calling a super food. Coconut is a fruit that lends itself to virtually endless uses besides consumption. The Philippines contributes 59% of the world’s coconut exports. The coconut and its numerous by-products have earned it the moniker, ‘Tree of Life’. This is for a good reason. Not only is it a commonly known food ingredient and becoming a vital element in some health regimen, everything from mosquito repellant to face and beauty products can be harvested from a single tree.
In the Philippines, there are 338 million fruit-bearing coconut trees that produce an average of over 15 billion nuts a year. These trees are tended and cared for using natural methods in medium-size plantations to assure the highest quality of the product. The national average weight per nut can go as high as one kilo, higher than the alternative sources from other countries. In the southern part of the Philippines, the average weight of coconuts can range from 1 to 1.5 kilos, with some nuts growing to as much as 2.5 kilos.
Every year, demand for high-quality coconuts and coconut products grow. The government has then taken initiatives to have more seedlings planted through propagation programs. This is aside from yield improvement measures through natural fertilizer subsidies, and coaching in proper fertilization methods. Likewise, education and training to farmers and plantation owners are provided by the non-government and private sectors in order to keep up with the global demand for coconuts and the products derived from them.
This industry provides the livelihood for a third of the country’s population. Farming skills have been passed on from generation to generation, along with improvements in know-how. Nuts are carefully selected. Those with deformities, or have been damaged in some form, are discarded. Seedlings are planted in polybags to reduce transplanting shock. They are then laid out neatly so that caretakers may tend to them well, as well as provide shading so that they may survive in the sweltering climate of the country.
For the purpose of obtaining the highest marketable yield, the nuts are properly aged and harvested by hand, using a sickle mounted on a long bamboo pole. From there, the coconuts are processed and converted into products and by-products, and eventually prepared for local distribution or exportation.