Philippines eyes billion-dollar coconut sugar market

Philippine government and private sector representatives are meeting next month to craft a master plan on coconut sap sugar and how the industry can get into the global market for a sugar alternative “With the increasing demand, the coconut sap sugar industry presents a promising business opportunity for the farmers and small to medium enterprises,” said Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) project development officer Erlene C. Manohar, who is appointed as chair of an upcoming industry conference.

The higher demand for coconut sap sugar may be related to the prevalence of diabetes and the growing interest of health enthusiasts worldwide, said Manohar.

The PCA, the Bureau of Agricultural Research, and coconut sap sugar farmer will convene the First National Coconut Sap Sugar Industry Congress by March 2012.

The congress was conceived by the government agencies in response to a perceived potential of an international market for processed coconut sap as a healthy sugar, from which farmers may benefit.

During the March 5 to 6 conference in Davao City’s Marco Polo Hotel, the organizers intend to safeguard the coconut sap sugar industry by establishing a product quality certification body.

“We believe our farmers and entrepreneurs can create a niche in natural products whose primary value is their health quality.

Coconut sap sugar is one of those products that has already taken off in the market and which still offers so much valuable growth potential,” said Agricultural Research director Dr. Nicomedes P. Eleazar.

Thailand and Indonesia, apart from the Philippines, are the only countries that produce coconut sap sugar. But the Philippine government believes locally produced coconut sap sugar is better in terms of quality compared to Indonesia’s and in term of volume in the case of Thailand. The Philippines, according to the Agricultural Research Bureau, broke into the coconut sap sugar market in the United States in March 2007 after it was proven that coconut sap sugar has a low glycemic index (GI) of 35, compared to GI 65 to GI 100 for sugar cane-based sugars.

The data is based on a scientific study by the Philippines Food and Research Nutrition Institute-Department of Science and Technology with supporting studies from the US and Australia.

GI is an indicator of how fast carbohydrates convert to glucose in the blood or how fast carbohydrate turns into sugar. As a rule of thumb, the lower the GI the better, with GI 54 considered low.

In 2009, the Philippines started exporting coconut sap sugar to Japan which accounts for 53.6 percent of Philippine shipments with the US accounting for 44.4 percent.

Last year, the Philippines also shipped coconut sap sugar to the Middle East, South Korea, Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. — VS, GMA News

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