Photo caption:

 

Photo grab from PCA-13 Facebook Page

BUTUAN CITY – Coconut farmers in Agusan del Sur has recognized the intervention made by the Philippine Coconut Authority in Caraga (PCA-13), saying it came just in time as they are reeling from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 6 this year, PCA-13 distributed around PHP6.3 million financial aid to at least 1,153 coconut farmers in Agusan del Sur under the agency’s Participatory Coconut Planting Project (PCPP).

PCPP is a participatory and cash reward program for coconut farmers to help them develop their plantation and encourage farmers to expand their areas and promote the industry to non-coconut farmers.

The cash aid was distributed to 65 barangays in nine towns and one city in Agusan del Sur during the period.

“I am thankful that the government, through the PCA, has aided the coconut farmers like me in this time of crisis,” said 70-year-old Teresita Mabras in an interview with the Philippine News Agency on Thursday (Oct. 8).

Mabras, married with three children and a resident of Barangay La Suerte, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, said she still helps supervise the maintenance of their four-hectare coconut farm, two hectares of which are already productive while another two are still on the development stage.

She was among the coconut farmers in Prosperidad who received cash aid from the PCPP program last Sept. 25 in the amount of PHP14,000.

“I used the amount in the procurement of the needed insecticide because the developing coconuts are infested. The aid is really on time. I will also allocate for the fertilizers and the payment of laborers who will do the cleaning of the farm and the application of the insecticide and fertilizer,” Mabras said

She said her family is now harvesting at the productive portion of their farm and will sell copras after one week.

“I hope the price of copra will continue to increase,” Mabras said, adding that buying price of copra in the area ranges from PHP19 to PHP21 per kilo.

Another coconut farmer in the area, Carmelita Sag-od-Lopez, said the government is very active even during the health crisis.

“The government really takes care of the people, especially the farmers. The PCA, despite the health risks, moved on with the distribution of the aid seeing its importance to the coconut farmers,” Lopez said.

Lopez, 43, married with two children, belongs to the Manobo tribe in Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur.

“My husband and I are into coconut farming since then, we have around five hectares of the farm of which two hectares have 253 productive coconuts,” Lopez said.

She added that in 2018, they availed of the coconut seedling distribution through the PCPP program which helped them plant another two-hectare in their farm.

“These coconuts are still developing and the aid that we received last month, amounting to more than PHP6,000 was used to buy fertilizers and pesticides,” Lopez said.

She said the aid also helped them buy basic necessities and eased the impact of the pandemic on her family.

She also hopes the price of copra would increase to help coconut farmers survive.

“We harvest every four months or three times per year from our productive coconut trees. The harvest can produce around 2,000 to 2,500 kilos of copra products. We earn around PHP45,000 to PHP50,000 every harvest if the price of copra maintains at PHP21 per kilo,” Lopez said.

She added that in their latest copra delivery last week, they earned around PHP42,000 with the PHP21 existing price of copra in the market.

“The income will not directly land in our pocket as we need to pay those who worked during the harvest and the processing of copra. At least we had around half of the total income from copra,” Lopez said.

PCA-13 Manager Joel B. Oclarit on Thursday said the agency was working for the release of financial assistance to more coconut farmers in Caraga.

“Our office will continue to deliver these benefits to our coconut farmers in the region. In this time of the pandemic, they really need this support to further improve their farms and also provide for their families,” Oclarit said.

In August until the first week of September this year, PCA-13 also released PHP747,200 worth of financial aid to 175 indigenous peoples involved in coconut farming in Surigao del Sur. (PNA)