Iloilo City to host first nat’l coffee, cacao, and coconut congress

POPA Agriculture Cooperative holds a press conference on the national Coffee, Cacao, and Coconut (CoCaNut) Congress on September 18, 2023. (Rjay Zuriaga Castor photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Iloilo City will host the first-ever national Coffee, Cacao, and Coconut (CoCaNut) Congress 2023 on November 8-10 at the Iloilo Convention Center in Mandurriao district.

Larry Nacionales, overall chair of the CoCaNut Congress, said that POPA Agriculture Cooperative, the lead organizer of the event, focused on the three commodities due to their great economic value.

“The rationale behind why we focused on these three commodities is that if we try to look at the economic value of these three commodities to the agriculture sector tam-an gid ka dako,” Nacionales said.

The three-in-one national congress is projected to be one of the biggest forum and exhibition events that will showcase and promote the potential of the coffee, cacao, and coconut industry in the country.

Nacionales, a former regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture-Region 6, stressed that it is high time for farmers and the whole agriculture sector to also reconsider other high-value crops instead of just focusing on the rice industry.

“The topic will directly and indirectly benefit the other [commodities]. When we talk about regenerative agriculture, you talk about biodiversity, you are making, particularly the soil, bring back fertility. Ang aton soil, totally lost na, especially in rice areas,” he explained.

Regenerative agriculture is a farming practice that nurtures and restores soil health and protects the climate, water resources and biodiversity.

“These three commodities, if you put so many of [these], the biodiversity will improve and ultimately it will bring back the nutrient in the soil kay nagbalik ang mga microorganisms […] that was totally wiped out for the last 20 years nga we go into conventional approach,” he added.

Nacionales pointed out that the current state of the agriculture sector is vastly different from what it was just a few years ago and there is a pressing need to understand the evolving landscape of these commodities, to cope with the demands of the global market.

“The most crucial thing in this congress is on the areas of concerns of sustainability of [these commodities] in different geographic areas in the country […] We need to also ascertain the global requirement of the market of these three commodities,” he said.

Nacioanles emphasized that the congress will conclude with an endpoint of addressing issues and problems related to production, processing, and marketing.

He added that collaborative agreements and investment opportunities are expected to be reached among various stakeholders, including the government.

Meanwhile, Dr. Louie S. Tirador, Chairman of POPA Agriculture Coop, also echoed Nacionales’ statements. He emphasized that for a country to be located in the equatorial zone, cultivating these three commodities will be a major boost to the country’s economy.

Tirador reiterated that the country, particularly provinces in the Western Visayas region, has vast, untapped upland areas that could significantly contribute to the country’s agricultural output.

“Dapat tagaan ta man  importance ang mga upland because we have lots of uplands that are not being used or utilized because we lack [knowledge] about technology, about managing these three products,” he reiterated.

With the theme “Thriving and Innovating through Changing Climates,” the three-day event is expected to gather over 1,500 stakeholders which will include exhibitors, producers, trading companies, micro, small and medium enterprises, and farmers cooperatives, among others.

Among the top officials of the government expected to attend the congress are President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the keynote speaker and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Senator Cynthia Villar.