Thursday, 25 September 2014


Our Dream:
in the

Based from a writeup by Rey Callope Sabio
With a preface by Lualhati Madlangawa Guererro

At first, it is a pleasure for yours truly to repost this writeup made by our fellow writer and advocate Rey Callope Sabio and his idea uplifting the coconut industry by means of new ideas such from growing to prociessing. In an agricultural country such as the Philippines, coconuts is one of the most important produce to be consumed and exported just like Rice and Bananas, however, in spite of exporting the said produce, farmers remained destitute especially those whom worked hard yet indebted and difficultly paying, or worse, being fooled by middlemen whose intention is to buy cheap from the growers and sell dear afterwards.

But this time, this person, along with Rey Sabio offers an alternative that would say empowers the coconut farmers, redevelop communities, as well as contributes in the development of modern yet organically based agriculture in the Philippines today.


It may consider it as idealistic to some and uninterested to those whom prefering the usual ways of growing and processing. Yet in spite of these, it is time for the coconut farmers of the Philippines to be emancipated after more than 100 years of enslavement by the old copra coconut industry.

Within the next 10 years or by 2024 the copra coconut industry that is benefited by the few will be gone, replaced by the new fresh coconut processing industry called FRESCO. The more than 300,000 koprahans, mostly drying and small yet crude all milling facilities spread all over the archipelago will have been replaced by some 8,000 Farmers' Coconut Mills. These we call FARCOMs. And through these, a new 'New Coconut-based Economy' is emerging with the growing enlightenment among the 3.5 million coconut farmers.

Actually, we are witnessing a widespread discontent and anger against the long existing exploitative and oppressive ways in the coconut sector. Especially those of middlemen buying cheap if not landlords making growers in debt and difficultly paying it.

But at First, what are these FARCOMs and the New Coconut-based Economy all about?

Copra -- Sick, Poor Old Man

Copra is coconut meat primitively dried for many days by smoking or in open sun. Because of the crude method, it is basically dirty and cheap. It takes so much hard labor to produce copra. The farmers while making copra look like zombies, perspiring, stoic and sad.

This is done for the sole and exclusive purpose of crude coconut oil extraction in an oil mill hundreds of kilometers away from the farm. The main use of crude coconut oil (CNO) is industrial – the production of soaps, detergents, chemicals, explosives and the like.

For years, the farmers have been made to understand that only copra can be produced by them out of the coconut and were disabled by government from doing otherwise. The copra is deliberately priced low and must be sent to coconut oil mills owned by the big industry players who reap all the profits.

In the last fifty years, the processing of coconut water and production of clean coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut flour emerged. However, only the big players were allowed to do this. These three products constitute 75% of the value of the coconut fruit, the coconut oil being only 25%.

CNO is crude, filthy and poisonous oil. Enormous costs need to be incurred to cleanse it if it must be useful -- by RBD process (refine, bleach and deodorize). In this modern time, dirtying a naturally fresh food product only to subsequently clean and clarify it to be of use is unacceptable and defies reason, likely to be a problem especially in regards to health.

The underlying result of adopting this old technology is the continued concentration of economic gains and power in a few people, citing the fact that they exploit farmers and reapinh their profits, to the exclusion and impoverishment of a great number of people: the coconut farmers.

Indeed, the copra system is a sick, poor old man.

Fresca – New and Young

Fresca is granulated coconut meat dried cleanly within a few hours after the fresh nuts are opened. Fresh-looking, Fresca is white, clean and delicious food. It is produced right in a farm site where copra used to be made but now turned into a sanitary enclosed production area. This is called village level processing facility.

A final product itself, Fresca is processed further to produce Fresh Coconut Oil (FCO) and Coconut Milk-Flour (CMF) by using an expeller and pulverizer. FCO is popularly called Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO).

The capacity of a frescahan is the same as an average koprasan: 5,000 nuts per day. It can produce the same volume of copra from 5,000 nuts -- 1,000 kilos of fresca. From this, 600 kilos (60%) is extracted fresh coconut oil and 400 kilos (40%) coconut milk-flour. These two products are worth P 80,000.00, all in a day’s work.

Fresca is not produced by hard labor, but by happy farmers who collectively own the frescahan for their common use.

Fresca vs. Desiccated Coconut

Technically, Fresca and Desiccated Coconut are one and the same. The difference is that fresca is produced at the village level on a small scale by the coconut farmers themselves, while desiccated coconut is produced by the large producers, about ten companies in all.

Small is 5,000 nuts a day, while large is 500,000 nuts a day. Although small compared to large production, 5,000 nuts/day is 1.5 million nuts per year which is large for the coconut farmers.

The term Fresca is significant in language, being the opposite of copra which is the historical cause of the farmers’ poverty and exploitation by interests.

While Copra underlies the farmers’ and communities' poverty, Fresca is the source of their prosperity and genuine development.

What is FRESCO?

FRESCO stands for fresh coconut processing. It is the name used for the new fresh coconut industry which is the opposite of the old copra coconut industry. It is an integrated system that produces all values of the coconut fruit, unlike the old industry which produces only copra, copra oil and copra cake. Fresca is just one of the multiple products of FRESCO processing.

The main products of FRESCO are:
1.) Fresh Coconut Meat (chunks, grated, grains)
2.) Fresca
3.) Fresh Coconut Oil (FCO)
4.) Coconut Milk (whole coconut milk, skim milk)
5.) Coconut Water beverage and concentrate
6.) Coconut Flour (milk-flour and flour).

FRESCO has two models: 1) Village Level Processing and 2) Central Processing.

Within the village level frescahan, other minor but valuable products are also produced: liquid smoke, coconut shell charcoal and coconut ash.

FARCOM: its description and economics

FARCOM stands for Farmers' Coconut Mill. It is the village level processing facility (frescahan) that will replace the koprahan and to produce Fresca.

The 300,000 koprahans spread all over the Philippine archipelago currently process 12 billion nuts every year out of the 15 billion nuts produced annually by the 3.5 million coconut farmers.

Only 8,000 FARCOMS are needed to process the same volume of nuts.

Let’s look at the economic performance of a FARCOM: If it processes 5,000 nuts a day it can generate Php 10 million income per year. (SEE TABLE). If there are 200 participants in a FARCOM, each farmer-member can earn Php 50,000 a year as dividend.

The FARCOM will buy from its members, the 5,000 nuts at Php 10 per nut. Thus the farmers will earn Php 50,000 a day for their fresh nuts.

The capital cost to establish a FARCOM is Php 5 million. Thus, within a year, this capital requirement can be recovered within a year given the expected return of P10 million a year.

One FARCOM can grow organically into 8000 FARCOMs within ten years. Definitely, the copra industry can be gone within ten years if we pursue the FARCOM roadmap today

Coconut Agriculture and Industry in perspective

Coconut agriculture is apart from coconut industry. But both are the basic constituents of the new coconut economy.

Under the New Coconut Economy, the coconut farmers, as well as as their communities will prosper in the New Coconut Industry as well as in the New Coconut Agriculture.

Since the farmers will be concentrating on farm activities, having been freed from copra making, they will have time to tend to their farms to increase total farm yields. Fertilization of the coconut trees will be addressed to increase the current yield of 40 nuts per tree per year to 100 nuts per tree per year. The increase in yield will translate to higher farm incomes.

Farmers shall also practice multi-cropping to further increase their total income and to strengthen soil from possible erosion. Crops like coffee, cacao, corn, cassava and other crops can be planted in between the coconut trees to optimize land usage.


Rey Calliope Sabio is a photojournalist and farmers rights activist. And one of his interest is advocating the interests of the coconut farmer sector.