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PIA Press Release

TRTA bats for improvement of quality coco exports

by Rutchie Cabahug-Aguhob

Cagayan de Oro City (5 June) -- Increasing the confidence of the European Union (EU) in the quality and safety of the country's coconut exports and improving their access to EU-member countries are only some of the objectives of the Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA).

An EU-funded program, TRTA assists the Philippines in building an enabling economic environment that seeks to enhance the conditions for international trade and investment of our coconut products.

Thus, the need to enhance the knowledge and capacity of stakeholders in dealing with other international trade issues of the coconut industry and the World Trade Organization (WTO), TRTA Programme Director Brenda Mendoza said.

"Our country traditionally ships coconut meal and oil products to the US and Europe but poor quality have threatened the markets for these products," Mendoza said during the recent 2-day Training on Copra Drying Techniques and Moisture Metre Reading in Gingoog City.

Aimed at equipping the processors with proper handling techniques to ensure food and feed safety of the coconut products, the training was attended by more than 50 coconut farmers from Northern Mindanao who were mostly leaders of farmers' cooperatives in their respective areas.

It was highlighted by the turn-over of a "KuKum" Dryer, the construction of which was estimated to cost Php60,000 to the Agay-ayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Barangay Agay-ayan in Gingoog.

"These dryers produce white copra which has been proven to effectively control the growth and contamination of aflatoxin-causing molds because the more reddish, the copra, the more aflotoxin it has," she said.

Mendoza further said EU countries require that copra meal brought to them must not exceed the aflatoxin limit of 20 parts per billion (ppb) and crude coconut oil, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (pah) limit not to exceed 25 ppb within it the benzo@pyrene (BaP) component not exceeding 5ppb.

These two (2) chemical compounds, which are carcinogenic and therefore health hazards, are acquired from using the traditional smoke (landahan/ganggangan) dryers and from poor and improper use of other drying methods or procedures in making copra like drying them under the direct heat of the sun.

When the crushing plants process this inferior quality copra, the aflatoxin is carried over in copra meal, a by-product in oil extraction, while the "pah" is carried over in the extracted crude coconut oil.

However, the problem of poor copra quality can be attributed primarily to the behavior of the farmers producing or making the copra, the attitude of the various stakeholders in the industry, such as, the coconut oil and copra meal customers, traders, plantation owners, etc. and the lack of funds to put up as many Kukum dryers.

In extending assistance to the coconut farmers, Mendoza further said, at least four (4) components have been established by the TRTA, namely:

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) implemented by the Bureau of Product Standards, Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI) to review the regulatory framework on technical regulations and enhance knowledge on EU requirements.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Bureau of Fisheries an Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Dept. of Agriculture (DA) to improve safety in the fishery and coconut food and feed chains and implement a Goods Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

Trade Facilitation implemented by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to reduce average clearance times for inward and outward cargo and improve revenue collection performance.

Capacity-Building implemented by the DTI's Bureau of International Trade Relations (BITR), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and DA to improve knowledge and skills on WTO issues, increase WTO-related networking and cooperation and awareness on WTO international trade-related issues. (PIA 10) [top]

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