Salvaging the coconut industry

by: Ma. Karen Aira S. Lapitan

After months of battling the problem known as the coconut scale insect (CSI, commonly known here as ‘cocolisap’) and containing the negative effects it had brought, the coconut industry in Los Banos slowly regains strength through the efforts of the government and several partner institutions.

In February this year, the Integrated Pest Management Protocol of the Task Force SAGIP was found to be effective in reducing the number of CSI.This task force is composed of the Department of Science and Technology, University of the Philippines Los Baños, and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

It conducted scientific research about cocolisap in November and December of the previous year. [Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7ddf8NSZtY]

As found in the scientific study, chemical and organic pesticides enabled millions of coconut trees to survive the infestation of cocolisap. According to the PCA in its article entitled ‘Facts on the Coconut Scale Insect Infestation and Emergency Protocol,’ the chemical pesticide has “a 30-day active effect on eradicating the CSI and the organic pesticide being able to flush out the remaining CSI on the surfaces of fronds.”
Here in Los Baños, Laguna, the good news brought relief to a number of buko pie establishment owners who have stores along the Anos-Malinta national highway in the municipality.
Previously, the cocolisap outbreak [http://opafsam.gov.ph/state-emergency-declared-coconut-scale-insect-infested-areas/] has caused the Department of Agriculture (DA) to issue a transporting restriction order with regard to farm products from outside the CALABARZON region, which is the area greatly affected by the cocolisap outbreak. The decrease in the supply of raw material (mainly fresh coconut meat) forced business owners to resort to price increase or production halt, as what Nitz Cassava Cake did, according to an employee. [http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/07/29/1351358/cocolisap-and-other-threats-coconut-industry]

Lina Pelda of Lety’s Buko Pie said that the establishment experienced a period when there was no delivery of coconut meat from their supplier in Quezon. “Limited na lang yung nabebenta namin kasi walang supply. Gawa non, kaya from P180 naging P190 na ‘yung presyo ng buko pie namin,” she said.

She also added that despite the price increase, the profit decreased. The establishment earned more when the coconut industry was still safe from the infestation.

The Original Buko Pie, also in Anos, resorted to offering more of their pineapple pies in addition to increasing the price of one buko pie from P170 to P190, according to Patrick Paz, an employee.

Government initiatives lowered the number of affected areas from 58 to 9, with only 625,000 affected trees. The areas are  Balayan and Calaca in Batangas; Bay and San Pablo in Laguna; Candelaria, Mauban, Sampaloc, and Polilio in Quezon; and Isabela in Basilan. Current efforts are now focused on uplift the trees’ situation “from severe to moderate,” as reported. Meanwhile, the buko pie businesses in Los Banos have slowly been coping with the losses in the previous months, as confirmed by Pelda and Paz.

Typhoon Glenda was said to have helped contain the outbreak when it battered CALABARZON with strong rains and winds. It washed away cocolisap and thus decreased the number of affected coconut trees from 2.7 million to 1.6 million, or a total of 41% decrease.

The protocol and after-effects of Glenda combined turned the outbreak into a manageable level, but the government asks farmers to watch out possible recurrence, especially in light of the discovery that the cocolisap tends to spread faster in a dry season. [http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/442873/economy/agricultureandmining/sen-villar-seeks-industry-task-force-vs-cocolisap]

With its regained strength, the Coconut industry can, hopefully someday, be completely back from what it used to be cocolisap-free.

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