THE Philippines is diversifying its market for coconut products, with coconut or "buko" juice as the program anchor. Data from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) shows that exports of coconut juice during the first six months of 2012 increased to 10.2 million liters, doubling from 5.7 million liters during the same period last year.

The demand for coconut water has risen this year in many countries as more people turn health conscious. Countries where coco juice is in demand include the United States of America, Netherland, Australia, Central and South America, and the Middle East. Drinking coco water, the clear watery fluid found inside a fresh coconut, is a natural beverage that is rich in potassium and magnesium. It is being promoted as an alternative sports drink.

The PCA is working with the Department of Science and Technology and its research arm, the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), in exploring technologies to prolong the shelf life of coco water for domestic and export markets. The agencies are tapping the technology "Ohmic heating," which uses electricity to preserve coco water's natural taste and nutritional content. A mobile-type Ohmic equipment, which can be used by small farmers' groups, is being developed by PhilMech.

The market for coco water is increasing by 40 percent annually. Filipino farmers are urged to plant new trees to meet the global demand not only for coco juice, but for other coconut by-products, which create jobs and livelihoods for millions of farmers and their families. It has some 340 million coconut trees planted on 3.4 million hectares. It needs to replace 40 to 50 million aging trees until 2016 to meet the growing demand.

We wish Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio R. de los Reyes, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo, Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Euclides G. Forbes, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing, all the best and success in efforts to boost the coconut water industry. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!