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Philippines 2016 coconut oil exports down

By Enrico Dela Cruz MANILA, March 4 (Reuters) - The Philippines' 2016 coconut oil exports are expected to drop 11 percent from a year ago as an El Nino weather pattern crimps domestic output, a top industry official said on Friday. Lower shipment...

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By Enrico Dela Cruz

MANILA, March 4 (Reuters) - The Philippines' 2016 coconut oil exports are expected to drop 11 percent from a year ago as an El Nino weather pattern crimps domestic output, a top industry official said on Friday.

Lower shipments by the world's top coconut oil supplier may underpin global prices of the commodity, which fell 6 percent last year when the Philippines' exports exceeded industry forecasts. It may also boost demand for palm oil-based alternatives from top suppliers Indonesia and Malaysia.

Total coconut oil exports by the Philippines are expected to hit 750,000 metric tons this year, said Yvonne Agustin, executive director of industry group United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (UCAP), lower than last year's 840,000 metric tons. UCAP had estimated 2015 shipments at 804,000 metric tons.

"Local coconut production may be lower because of below-normal rainfall," Agustin told Reuters by phone.

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The Southeast Asian nation has suffered losses in crops, including rice and corn, since last year because of the El Nino, which is marked by a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific and brings scorching weather across Asia.

But local weather forecasters expect the weather event to gradually weaken over the next three months, bringing relief to the country's coconut industry that has been battling falling output from ageing trees and damage from natural disasters.

A super typhoon that wreaked havoc in central Philippines in 2013 uprooted millions of coconut trees, cutting supply and pushing up prices of coconut oil and palm oil-based alternatives. Prior to that, the country's annual coconut oil exports averaged 990,000 metric tons between 2009 and 2013 .

The Philippines ships coconut oil - its top agricultural export that is used in food, detergents and biofuels - mainly to Europe and the United States. The commodity is traded in the European vegetable oil market.

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