MANILA, October 18, 2005
 (STAR) By Marianne V. Go - The Philippines has sold 300 metric tons (about 18 containers) of coconut fiber worth $56,000 as initial orders to two Chinese companies in a move to diversify the country’s exports and penetrate the Chinese market.

This was reported by Archimedes Gomez, Philippine commercial attaché in Guangzhou, China, to Trade and Industry Senior Undersecretary Thomas Aquino.

Gomez also reported that Dr. Justino Arboleda, president and chief operating officer (CEO) of Cocotechnologies Inc., recently signed an agreement with Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDRI) to pilot test coco coir geotextile, mats, biologs and coconet peat in a 20,000 square area in Gansu Province.

"The initial orders are good indications of forthcoming sales," Aquino said.

Aquino added that orders of coconut fiber products clearly indicate that the Philippines is making headway in penetrating the Chinese market for coconut products.

The promotion of coconut product exports is in line with the diversification to other export products and markets, as contained in the Philippine Export Development Plan.

The initial orders are not the Philippines’ first shipments of coconet to China.

In 2003, DTI announced that Filipino firm Cocotechnologies Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding with Guangzhou Rivers Enterprise Co. Ltd. to supply coco coir and geotextiles, mats, biologs and coconut peat for soil erosion control used in a Guangzhou Rivers’ six-hectare dumpsite project.

The agreement involved the supply by the Cocotechnologies of 70 containers of coco coir geotextile, biologs, and fascines worth $1 million.

Fascines are rolled coco mats with short fibers and peat inside.

Another supply contract of coco fiber and coco geotextile between Philippines and Chinese firms was also firmed up during the visit of President Arroyo to Guangzhou in September 2004.

Laguna-based Philippine Environmentech Products Corp. agreed to supply exclusively.

"Coconut products have been catching global interest lately. Coconut oil, aside from its use as cooking oil, has proven to be a good additive to diesel fuel, which could lengthen the mileage of vehicles. Virgin coconut oil has also been of interest because of its health value. Now, we have coconut fiber’s growing use as a material to address ecological concerns, such as desertification and soil erosion. We hope we could capitalize on the positive properties of the coconut," Gomez said.

Coconet has been getting a lot of attention in the local press due to the nomination it got as one of the finalist in the BBC World Challenge contest.

BBC visited the Philippines to document Dr. Arboleda’s project that uses coconet in the prevention of soil erosion and provides livelihood opportunities in the regions.

The export of coco fiber products to China is expected to further bolster the income of people in the regions.

About 23 percent to 25 percent of the country’s cultivated lands are planted with coconut trees, and an estimated 30 million people are partly or wholly dependent on the coconut industry as their sources of livelihood.

Historically, the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions of Luzon and Eastern Visayas were the centers of coconut production.

In the 1980s, Western Mindanao and Southern Mindanao also became important coconut-growing regions.

The Philippines is the second largest producer of coconut products, next only to Indonesia.

Coconet has also won the Nature’s Wisdom Award for encouraging people to be in social and technological harmony with nature and the Global 100 Eco-Tech Awards during the World Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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