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The Philippine government is planning to boost coconut oil production to meet increasing demand, Bloomberg reported.

As part of its plan, the government was helping farmers plant hybrid coconut seeds to speed up fruit formation and double yields, Bernie Cruz, head of the Philippine Coconut Authority, was quoted as saying in the 1 February report.

The plan, which was being implemented during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr until 2028, could increase supplies of the tropical oil into an already well-supplied global market, Bloomberg wrote.

Prices of coconut oil have dropped about 60% since last March, the report said.

Cruz expected demand to continue surging, particularly for products such as virgin coconut oil, boosted by the growing popularity of plant-based food and cosmetics.

Coconut oil is the Philippines’ top agricultural export, with US$2bn of sales last year.

Last year, the Philippines exported around 1.15M tonnes of coconut oil, a 31% increase compared to the previous year, Yvonne Agustin, executive director of industry group United Coconut Associations of the Philippines, was quoted as saying.

Agustin said she expected exports to increase further this year, with most of the volume going to the USA and Europe.

According to Cruz, with each tree in the Philippines producing about 44 coconuts/year – less than half the amount in Indonesia and India – the biggest challenge was improving yields.

There are 365M trees in a planted area of 3.6M ha in the country, Cruz said.

The target was to double yields through replanting trees and producing coconuts in four to five years compared to the current seven years, Bloomberg wrote. The industry was also focused on producing higher-value products, including a building board material from coconut husks, and lambanog, a coconut liquor.