Buko is cadang-cadang viroid-free

Philippine buko is cadang-cadang viroid-free, experts confirm

by Mary Charlotte O. Fresco

BAR TODAY –April-June 2002

Around 80% of our coconut products goes to foreign market, generating US$ 741.77 million a year. This makes us the third largest producer of coconut oil and desiccated coconut in the world. Our young coconut orbuko even performs well in neighboring countries like Taiwan and Malaysia.

This was before export bans were imposed on our coconut products.

In 1998, Brazil was the first to set trade restrictions on our desiccated coconut. Malaysia and Taiwan followed years later by imposing a ban on our buko for fear that it was contaminated with the dreaded cadang-cadang viroid.

In 2000, experts from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Albay did a series of rigorous viroid-detection process and declared that the meat and water of young and mature coconuts in the Philippines are free of the cadang-cadang viroid.

Checking the viroid Cadang-cadang was confirmed to be a viroid disease in the late 70s. Its causal agent is the coconutcadang-cadang viroid or CCCVd, which is often transmitted through pollen and seed, and contaminated farm tool such as scythe. Viroids should not be mistaken with viruses because they are much smaller and have different molecular and biological properties.

The disease is common in the Bicol region and also present in some areas in Quezon, Aurora, Biliran (particularly in Maripipi Island), Northern and Eastern Samar.

Researchers MJB Rodriguez and LP Estioko of PCA-Albay Research Center, hoping to exempt the young coconut from the ban, employed a more reliable and sensitive diagnosis for the presence of CCCVd. It is an improved molecular hybridization assay (MHA) that can be efficiently used to detect the concentration of the viroid in different parts of the nuts.

They gathered samples of young (about 6 to 9 month old) and mature nuts (a year old) from both healthy and infected palms and immediately subjected them to CCCVd analysis.

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