Typhoon hits Philippine coconut oil exports

A worker uses a chainsaw to cut a coconut tree into a lumber at a village in the Typhoon Haiyan-stricken town of Jaro, Leyte province, central Philippines on February 17, 2014

Philippine coconut oil exports fell 35 percent at the start of this year, driving up global prices, after a super typhoon destroyed millions of trees, an industry group said Tuesday.

In normal times the Philippines accounts for more than 40 percent of world exports in the oil, which is used in daily items such as detergents, bath soap and margarine, according to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, which killed or left missing about 8,000 people in November last year, also destroyed or severely damaged about 10 percent of the nation's coconut trees.

This led to coconut oil exports falling to 143,870 tonnes in January and February, a drop of 35.2 percent for the same period last year, the association said, warning a quick turnaround was impossible.

"It will take several years for the supply to normalise (even) if we replant what has been lost during the typhoon," the association's executive director, Yvonne Agustin, told AFP.

"We are of course projecting a reduction in volume this year, and that would lead to increased prices in the world market."

Agustin said coconut oil prices were already "substantially higher" than before the typhoon, with the commodity currently trading at $1,445 a tonne.

While she could not give exact pre-typhoon prices, the Indonesia-based Asian and Pacific Coconut Community reported on its website that coconut oil sold for $810 a tonne in June last year.