Tuesday, March 18, 2008

[PBN] PH: copra shortage, as biofuel demand rises

From: Manila Times

By Conrad M. Cariño, Senior Desk Editor

Biofuel's gain, particularly biodiesel, is copra's loss.

Demand for biodiesel from coconut will cause a shortage of about 100,000
metric tons (MT) of copra in 2009, according to the administrator of the
Philippine Coconut Authority.

Oscar Garin said Friday the country must produce 2.7 million metric tons
of copra, the dried meat of coconut, in 2009 to meet the expected demand
for coconut methyl ester, the biofuel component from coconut oil.

This will impact on the country's export of traditional coconut oil,
which is processed for use as cooking oil and an ingredient in the
processing of food, pharmaceutical products and cosmetics.

But meeting the 2.7-million metric ton production for 2009 will be a
tough call, Garin admitted, because copra production has been on a
decline since 2005 with a production of 2.6 million metric tons, 2.5
million metric tons in 2006, and 2.3 million metric tons in 2007.

This year, the coconut agency is projecting a 2.43-million metric ton
production in copra, with a program encouraging the use of table salt as
fertilizer contributing to the increased output.

"Production declined in 2006 because of the typhoons [hitting the
country]. But this year's absence of a dry season favors coconut
production," Garin said.

The coconut agency sees copra production hitting 2.6 million metric tons
in 2009.

"Where will we get that 100,000 MT shortfall? That's the problem," Garin

To increase copra production in the next few years, the coconut agency
is alloting P1.98 billion this year and P2.59 billion next year. The
propagation of salt as fertilizer is a major program of the agency to
increase copra production.

Studies by the coconut agency show that the use of common table salt can
increase copra production from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Garin said their ambitious program to plant an additional 16 million
coconut trees nationwide in the next three years will impact on copra
production in 2009, because it takes up to five years for a coconut tree
to be productive from the day it is planted.

The country today has more than 324 million coconut trees planted to
more than three million hectares of lands.

The high demand for copra for biodiesel, however, will benefit coconut
farmers because they will have an alternative market for their produce,
a member of the Farmer Sectoral Council said. The council is a
consultative body of farmers under the National Anti-Poverty Council.

Also, a source from the biotechnology industry, told The Manila Times
that any shortfall in copra production for cooking oil can be easily met
by domestic malunggay production.

The source said malunggay oil has almost the same profile as sunflower
oil, which is free of unhealthy trans-fatty acids. The oil from
malunggay is extracted from its dried seeds.

This early, there are thousands of entrepreneurial farmers and
landowners who are already growing malunggay for its oil, and because
the tree can be productive one to two years from planting even without
fertilizer or pesticide use.

Rice shortage looms

The Philippines, apparently, is also bracing for a shortage of rice—the
Filipinos' staple. It seems that this early, rice-rich neighbors, among
them Vietnam, are looking at the local market as possible export

On Friday, Vietnamese enterprises have won a bid to sell 185,000 tons of
rice to the Philippines, according to the Vietnamese newspaper Youth.

Accordingly, 12,500 tons of 5-percent broken rice priced at $745 per
ton, 12,500 tons of 15-percent broken rice at $738 per ton, and 160,000
tons of 25-percent broken rice, will be delivered from March to late May.

Vietnam still targets to export 4 million tons to 4.5 million tons of
rice in 2008, despite damage to its rice crop by the recent prolonged
spell of cold weather in its northern region.

Vietnam is the world's second-biggest rice exporter after Thailand. It
exported 4.5 million tons of rice worth nearly $1.5 billion in 2007,
mainly to the Philippines, Malaysia, Cuba, Indonesia and Japan. The 2007
figure is down 3.1 percent in volume, but up 13.9 percent in value
against 2006, according to the country's General Statistics Office.

To avert the possible rice crisis in the Philippines, Senate President
Manuel Villar Jr. has called on the Department of Agriculture and the
National Food Authority to crack down on traders believed to behind
alleged rice cartels.

"The poor sector stands to be affected severely by the food shortage [as
a result of] the diminishing importation of rice," Villar said in a
statement Thursday.

"It is unfortunate that while agriculture is considered the lynchpin of
the country's economy and hosts one of the world's most reputable rice
research institutions, the Philippines is surprisingly the world's
biggest importer of rice," he said. Villar was referring to the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna, south
of Manila.

The Senate said threats to the steady supply of rice in the country "can
be attributed to water shortage, global warming, and decreasing rice
lands, aggravated by the operation of rice cartels."

He suggested that "an iron fist must also be used against the rice
cartels in averting the looming rice shortage and drastic price
increases of the commodity."

Villar said he had learned that Vietnam can only supply half of the 1.5
million tons that the Philippines needs.

He added that he will file a resolution in the Senate urging the
Committee on Agriculture and Food and the blue-ribbon committee to
conduct an inquiry into the supposedly impending rice shortage and the
reported rice cartels.
--With Xinhua


Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/

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