Here’s the good news for coconut growers: the domestic market needs 4 million kg of the highly-priced makapuno meat annually. The sad fact is, less than 3% of that demand is being met. This reality is a gaping hole in a scenario where economic opportunity is elusive. What are we doing to address this problem?
A study by the Philippine Coconut (PCA) Authority in Albay puts the problem in proper perspective.
Growing Makapuno is unlike growing ordinary coconut trees. It’s embryo germinates abnormally, hence the soft endosperm – the main feature of Makapuno – grows almost filling up the whole nut. This abnormality is due to a single recessive gene that controls the Makapuno endosperm.
Makapuno is conventionally grown using non-Makapuno nuts. These nuts are borne together in a bunch with the Makapuno, called kabuwig. These nuts are possible carriers of the Makapuno character, therefore a potential Makapuno bearer. This method has proven to be low yielding.
Market opportunity lost
Coconut farmers in the Southern Tagalog region know a huge market opportunity is passing them by because the product they are constrained to mass produce is priced nearly ten times the ordinary coconut. A nationwide survey in 1996 showed that there are only about 30,000 Makapuno trees in the country. Although farmers in Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon have been raising Makapuno for decades, their counterparts in Thailand, through an expert who discovered the market opportunity in Makapuno from Filipino experts, are reaping the promise of the tree more successfully.
This reality, the study suggests, makes it imperative for the country to invest more in the development of the Makapuno industry.
The breakthrough technology
Makapuno palms that could give potentially 100% Makapuno nuts were developed by the late Dr. Emerita de Guzman in the 1960s through coconut embryo culture. The technology has since then been optimized at the Philippine Coconut Authority-Albay Research Center and is now being used to mass propagate the Makapuno coconut in the Philippines as well as in collecting, conserving and transporting coconut germplasm among and between coconut growing countries in the world.
Optimizing the technology results into an embryo culture that has been successfully transferred and adopted by various Makapuno embryo culture laboratories in the country for mass production of the makapuno coconut.
With the prospects of higher yield of Makapuno now in sight, the development and promotion of Makapuno food products is now being undertaken. The study suggested, with the spearheading of the government, that research should be conducted to study and develop new ways to promote the commercialization of the Makapuno.
The need for a focused and aggressive development of the Makapuno coconut: An important coconut genetic resource of the Philippines, Erlinda P. Rillo, Philippine Coconut Authority – Albay Research Center
by Ma. Lizbeth J. Baroña, BAR Chronicle, February 2004 Issue (Vol. 5 No. 2)