A local umbrella organization of coconut farmers said they do not use monkeys to harvest coconuts, after a video that has gone viral elicited negative reaction from consumers, animal rights activists and other cause-oriented groups overseas.
“The use of monkey labor in harvesting coconuts in the Philippines was never a practice in its long history of coconut farming,” United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP) said in a news statement.
“Production of 15 billion coconuts annually are manually harvested by farmers and farm workers,” UCAP said.
Animal rights group PETA or People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, documented the said practice and showed pig-tailed macaques in Thailand working like “coconut-picking machines.”
After seeing the video, the UK Prime Minister’s fiancée, Carrie Symonds, a conservationist, recently called on all supermarkets to boycott the products. Experts say that a trained monkey can collect up to 1,000 coconuts per day, while an experienced human coconut picker can only get up to 80 on a good day.
“Philippine coconut farmers do not use monkeys in harvesting coconuts for local use, exports, or even tourism purposes,” said Retired Maj. Gen. Rhoderick Parayno of the Philippine Coconut Authority’s Office of the Administrator.
There are about 3.6 hectares of land planted with coconut trees in the Philippines and some 3.5 million Filipinos are engaged in coconut farming.
The local arm of PETA, the international animal rights group which documented the now viral video, also echoed their support for the Philippine coconut farmers and industry.
“Other coconut-growing regions—including the Philippines, India, Brazil, Colombia and Hawaii—harvest coconuts for export using humane methods such as tractor-mounted hydraulic elevators, willing human tree-climbers, rope or platform systems, or ladders. Thailand can easily implement these humane methods, too,” the group said.
UCAP said the Philippines offers itself as an alternative, “ethically sourced supplier of coconut products of the highest standards.”
Earnings of Philippine-harvested coconuts reach up to $2 billion, making the country the No. 1 source of coconuts worldwide.