In unprecedented time amid COVID-19 pandemic which poses the greatest threat to global public health, the 56th ICC Session and Ministerial Meeting was held virtually on 24 – 26 November 2020 at Jakarta. The Government of Samoa holds the Chair of International Coconut Community (ICC) for the CY 2019-2020 and was host of the 56th ICC Session & Ministerial Meeting.
ICC Session/Ministerial Meeting is the highest policy-making body of the Community and is held annually to discuss, deliberate, and take policy decisions on the activities to be undertaken by the Community for the sustained development of the global coconut sector. The countries are represented at the Session by the Honorable Ministers of Agriculture/Trade/Commerce, Plenipotentiary Delegates authorized by the National Governments, and senior officials from the concerned Ministries.
The ICC Session was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, of the Republic of Government of Samoa, Hon. Dr. Sailele Malielegao Tuilaepa. Hon. Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Government of Samoa, chairof the Session welcomed the Delegates. Hon. John Simon, M.P., Minister of Agriculture & Livestock, Papua New Guinea attended the inaugural session.
Hon. Dr. Sailele Malielegao Tuilaepa, in his opening speech, expressed that to face the challenges of coconut community we must continue to support the collaboration of all coconut growing countries through the ICC Secretariat, which brings us together in one platform to focus on the most important strategies to sustain good livelihoods, industries, environments, and cultural heritage. It is a time to consult, dialogue, establish, and re-establish all associations with our traditional and new interested partners to design and develop technologies that will foster mutual benefits.
He highlighted that the Community needs to prepare and to stay productive during this COVID-19 pandemic. He appreciated the activities taken up by the ICC secretariat for the welfare of the coconut community, the development and sustainability of the coconut resources and industries.
Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director, ICC officially launched the CORD Journal of ICC dedicated website for the Research & Development of Coconut and the webpage of Statistics of ICC. She mentioned that cord is an annual journal solely devoted to completed work on coconut research and development; f the journal has been indexed in DOAJ, Portal Garuda; Google Scholar; soon in Web of Science, Scopus and other reputable indexing agencies. The webpage of statistics shall provide the information related to the market promotion and weekly price of coconut and its value-added products.
Country statements presentation by member countries gave a brief update on the policies and programs for coconut development undertaken by the National Governments including the legislation to promote the development of the sector. The delegates also presented the updates on the coconut replanting, new planting and rehabilitation programs implemented, processing and export in their countries; the policies and programs implemented in the country to enhance farm productivity and increase production and the farmer’s income; the constraints and challenges faced by the sector and the road map for the way forward for the coconut sector. The most actual substance was sharing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the country’s coconut sector.
The country papers helped in understanding the developmental work undertaken by countries and identify the replicable models for customized implementation in other countries. They helped in the exchange of ideas and technology and paved the way for possible collaborations between member countries.
Dr. Fabian Dayrit, Chair of ICC Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition & Health, presented the programs and activities of the SACH in detail: the Continuing Threats on Coconut Oil: the different studies conducted on this was presented by citing the reference; updates on the use of VCO vs. COVID-19 and the result. The Committee also proposed follow-up actions and strategies suggested: follow-up the aborted FAO meeting, request for meeting with WHO, expand the membership of expert committees of FAO and WHO to include representatives from developing countries, strengthen links of national coconut agency with the health ministry, international research projects using similar protocols, propose VCO as a functional food.
Dr. Ponciano A Batugal, Chair, ICC Technical Working Group presented the Strategic Plan of ICC; programs and Projects status of different major coconut growing member countries; the ICC priority projects, which directly resulted in benefits of the farmers; potential collaboration with member countries Coconut Coalitions and Alliances. The Session also endorsed the TWG priority projects to be implemented in all the ICC member countries.
Observer organizations participated is CICY; NAM CSSTC; ACIAR;ITC; CARDI; CABI;CSIRO and presented statements on their activities, potential programs and projects for the development of the coconut sector to be implemented in the member countries with collaboration of ICC.
The ICC Annual Reports for the year 2019 were presented by Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director. The Session discussed the various programs and projects proposed to be undertaken by ICC. The Executive Director also presented the information of the Session of Delegates that included: the global scenario of the Coconut sector during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond; Highlights of 2019 activities; update on major activities in 2020; and some of the activities planned for 2021.
As one of the major programs under ICC, Mr. Vincent Johnson, Interim COGENT Coordinator presented Report & Plan of Activities of International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (ICC-COGENT); new Steering Committee members; four ITAGs and the ACIAR /DFAT fund in detail; including proposed ITAG research projects.
The Executive Director informed the Session of Delegates that the Government of Malaysia continues to host the 49thInternational COCOTECH Conference during 2021, which was postponed from 2020 amid COVID-19 pandemic. The date proposed is 7-11 September 2021 at the Royale Chulan Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, under the theme: “Promoting Smart Farming Eco-Friendly and Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Coconut Development”. The other program proposed in 2021 is the International Symposium on IPM, in association with the Philippines Coconut Authority and the International Training Course for Coconut Development Officers in collaboration with CRI, Sri Lanka.
The Session approved the extension of tenure of ICC Incumbent Assistant Director, Ms. Mridula Kottekate for another term of three years effective from 15 January 2021 -14 January 2024. The amendment made in ICC Staff Rules and Regulations approved as proposed. The session approved the Audit Report of 2019 Financial Statements, ICC Secretariat budget & membership contribution for the current year 2021. The 57th ICC Session & Ministerial Meeting in 2021 will be hosted by the Government of Papua New Guinea and the ICC chair for 2020-2021.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, Executive Director, ICC expressed her appreciation to the Hon. Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegao, Prime Minister, Government of Samoa, high-level government officials, and NLO from 19 countries. She asked the delegates to look beyond the Meeting and considered the possibilities for turning the dreams into reality. Special appreciation was expressed to the outgoing Chairman of ICC, Hon Lopaoo Natanielu Mua, for his leadership, and welcomed the new Chairman, Hon. John Simon, MP, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Papua New Guinea. She emphasized the necessity to work together with all related coconut stakeholders and create unbreakable unity to continually strengthen ICC, improve the socioeconomic of coconut smallholders, and encourage the coconut industry's sustainability.