Coconut farmers in Southeast Asia struggle as palm oil muscles in on them

  • Indonesia and the Philippines account for most of the world’s coconut production. But as the palm oil industry expands, helped along by generous government subsidies, coconut farmers are struggling to adapt.
  • In 2010, palm oil overtook coconut oil as the top-selling oil in most Philippine grocery stores. Most of it was imported from Indonesia or Malaysia, but now the Philippines is trying increase its own production.
  • Oil palm is a much more industrialized crop than coconut, which is dominated by smallholders. But while the low price of palm oil has given it an advantage, demand has risen for high-quality coconut products due to health and sustainability concerns.
  • Some coconut farmers say they need the same kind of support from the government that palm oil companies get if they are going to survive.

GENERAL NAKAR, Philippines — Lucio Tena, 64, has been growing coconuts on his 20-hectare (49-acre) farm in General Nakar, on the east coast of the Philippine island of Luzon, for more than four decades. But the situation facing farmers like him today is the worst he’s experienced in his lifetime.

Lucio Tena waits for a middleman buying his coconuts in General Nakar. Image by Jervis Gonzalez for Mongabay.

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