To celebrate The World Coconut Day and the 347th Gorontalo Regency Anniversary, Indonesian Coconut Festival has been conducted at Taman Budaya Limboto, on 22nd September 2020. The program included coconut bonsai exhibition and online webinar under the theme: “Reviving the People's Economy during the Covid-19 Pandemic by Restoring the Greatness of Coconuts”. 200 Coconut Bonsai Association members participated in the exhibition, which exhibited 6.000 unique coconut bonsai produced in an effort to stay productive and innovative during COVID-19. It was the first world coconut bonsai exhibition.
The online webinar was opened by Mr. Rahmat Pomalingo, Head of Agriculture Service, Gorontalo Regency. In his inaugural address, Prof. Dr. Ir. Nelson Pomalingo, M. Pd., Bupati of Gorontalo, said that this was the fourth Coconut Festival in Indonesia, the first was in Tembilahan, Indragiri Hilir (2017), then Lingga, Karangasem and Gorontalo. He encouraged coconut cultivation in the upstream, and the industry, in the downstream. The cultivation of coconut bonsai in Gorontalo is one of the programs.
The first speaker, Dr. Ir. Jelfina C. Alouw, M.Sc. (Executive Director of ICC), addressed that the impact of the Covid-19 has led to the global economic crisis; world trade is expected to fall by between 12-32% (WTO). The coconut products export was affected differently among countries. The challenges confronting farmers and the coconut industry were: low earning, low productivity, insufficient raw materials, tariff barrier, and sustainability. It was necessary to fight for coconut to become a priority in the national development plan. She also proposed strategies to sustain coconut development amid Covid-19 pandemic, such as: support the formation of economically viable coconut farmer’s cooperative and producer societies, provide financial incentives and access to credit assistance, capacity building of coconut farmers on the processing of high-value coconut products, innovative products, product quality standards assurance to meet market requirements, online market promotion and campaign on the health benefit of coconut, increase yields, reduce yield & postharvest losses, optimize production costs, and negotiate tariff barriers. There were also international cooperation opportunities for sustainable coconut development, with international donor agencies. She also concluded that the key was implementing appropriate measures and approaches to increase production, sustaining market in the main markets and seeking prospective markets.
The second speaker, Prof. DR. Ir. Nelson Pomalingo, M. Pd (Chair of KOPEK, Regent of Gorontalo), explained that the socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic, economy and trade were down, so unemployment and poverty rose. The priority sectors were: agriculture, forestry, fisheries, which are not affected because they were located in the village. Meanwhile, the trade sector was the most affected because it was located in the city. The development and regional economic recovery strategies in the field of coconut oil must be holistic, integrative, thematic, and spatial. He hoped that the cooperation between KOPEK and ICC would be closer.
The third speaker, Dr. Ir. Ismail Maskromo, MS (Head of Balitpalma, Agricultural Research and Development Agency, Manado), discussed the support of coconut technology for regional economic recovery in the Covid-19 Pandemic era and available technologies that could immediately be applied to coconut development in the Covid-19 Pandemic era. He explained the various hybrid varieties of new types and development of superior varieties of regional potential, improved cultivation technology, and integrated pest control. He also proposed coconut management strategy in the future, for the main coconut products like VCO and coconut oil, as well as processing by-products and alternative products. For example, Genjah and hybrid coconuts for the production of edible copra which were favored by Sri Lanka & India, also for molded and lump sugar production which could increase farmers' income 5 times
The last speaker, Elfi Ramli (Chair of the Indonesian Coconut Coir Association, ASKI), discussed the coir industry's investment prospects in the regions during the Covid-19 pandemic. He explained that the export opportunities for coco fiber and coco peat are still wide open. Indonesia could only supply 0.3% of the demand. His company PT. Marligai Indo Fiber, exported 30-35 container of coco fiber and coco peat monthly to China. China alone needed 3.000 containers/year of coco fiber for mattress production, not to mention other countries like Japan, Korea, also Europe and the Middle East. He expected the development of the coir industry in the regions by all coconut stakeholders.
Providing an introduction as well as being a moderator, Ir. Rusthamrin H. Akuba, MS, Ph.D. (Gorontalo Regent Strategic Team, Gorontalo Polytechnic Lecturer, Coconut Researcher / Observer).