WHY THE PHILIPPINE COCONUT HYBRIDIZATION PROGRAM SHOULD BE RESTORED AND EXPANDED PART III: CASE STUDIES THAT PROVIDE HOPE FOR THE PHILIPPINE COCONUT INDUSTRY
Part 1, which discussed the three Philippine government policies that contribute to making coconut farmers poorer—the policy on cutting and replanting old coconut trees, the coconut expansion program policies, and the hybrid program policy—appeared in the January 2016 issue of Agriculture Magazine. Part 2, which discussed the four major reasons for the restoration and expansion of the Philippine coconut hybridization program, appeared in the February 2016 issue of Agriculture Magazine.
1. The outstanding performance of the Matag hybrid in UPB, Perak, Malaysia Hybrid coconut trees produce high yields when provided with adequate fertilization and at times, irrigation. An example is the coconut plantation for the United Plantation Berhad (UPB) hybrids in the province of Perak, Malaysia, which was visited by the author. It grows 5,000 hectares (ha) of Matag and other Philippine coconut hybrids.Matag is a hybrid coconut obtained by crossing the Malaysian Red Dwarf and Tagnanan Tall, and was discovered by a team of outstanding Filipino breeders.
Aside from being grown on a large plantation in Malaysia, Matag is also popular among Malaysian horticulturists and landscapers who promote this hybrid as a resort or home backyard plant for both beautification and food (Fig. 1). Through extensive agronomic field research, UPB discovered that Matag is highly responsive to fertilization in terms of early fruiting and high yield. Flowering comes in less than three years. At full maturity (reached at five years) and onward, the hybrid produces from 29,000 to 35,000 nuts/ha per year or over eight tons of copra. Production costs include the cost of hybrid seednuts, equivalent to R37, and the cost of 24 bags of fertilizer/ha per year or eight kilograms (kg)/tree per year. This brings the cost of fertilization to R33,000/ ha/year. The yield of eight tons of copra, at the lowest price of R20, gives the farmers a gross income of R160,000/ ha/year. After deducting the cost of fertilizer, their net income comes to R127,000/ ha/year.
UPB is now contracted by the Malaysian government to produce large quantities of germinated Matag seednuts, which it buys and distributes to small landholders practically for free together
with a fertilizer distribution package to ensure that the farmers can achieve incomes above the poverty threshold level.The latest information obtained by the author from a third party is that thanks to research, UPB has been able to reduce the cost of hybrid seednut production to less than R10 per seednut.
2. Fertilization and irrigation bring about high coconut yields in Thailand During the early part of November 2015, the author spent a
“Matag,” as advertised in this Malaysian newspaper, is a very popular crop in Malaysia and is used for backyard beautification and in commercial plantations.