SORSOGON CITY: The organized group of cacao farmers in Sorsogon province based in this provincial capital is elated over the access to credit support, crop insurance and agricultural guarantee fund arranged recently for them by a party list.
These privileges, which will also be enjoyed by other farmers and cooperatives, were arranged by COOP NATCCO Party List Rep. Anthony Bravo in an effort to boost the productivity of farmers and allow cooperatives to expand their entrepreneurial operations to sustain their growth as a production support system towards equity, social justice and economic development.
The arrangements include opportunities for cooperatives as conduit of farmers to access programs and services, mainly on credit support, crop insurance and agricultural guarantee being provided by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool (AGFP) and Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC).
“This is a big opportunity for Cacao Farmers Association of Sorsogon (CFAS). We are organizing a business forum for agri-based cooperatives and associations in the province for them to be able to understand what this privilege means to farmers and fisher folk,” Vladimir Frivaldo, project coordinator of a giant cacao production project in the province, said over the weekend.
The CFAS is an organized group of local farmers enlisted as cooperators of the Cacao Contract Growing Program for the province which Bravo had earlier arranged with Kennemer Foods International (KFI), a foreign-invested agri-business with corporate and contract-farming operations throughout the Philippines and whose specialization is the trade and export of cocoa.
The program involves a partnership among the COOP NATCCO, KFI, CPAS and South Luzon Federation of Cooperatives (SLFC), the umbrella organization of all rural-based cooperatives in Bicol and the Southern Tagalog regions.
The CPAS operates under the Sorsogon Integrated Development Cooperative, a member of SLFC.
Through this credit facility, guarantee fund and crop insurance, Frivaldo said the CFAS, which involves around 5,000 farmers committed to make Sorsogon province one of the country’s top producers of cacao beans, would be able to maximize their time, efforts and lands in carrying out this commitment.
“Certainly, working on the realization of this commitment needs capital and with this credit facility covered by AGFP, sourcing of fund on the part of farmers would no longer be difficult,” he said.
The AGFP, which is sourced from the contributions of several government-owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions, is a fund that provides guarantee coverage to unsecured loans of small farmers extended by credit conduits like countryside financial institutions, cooperatives, small and medium enterprises and large corporations so they will be further encouraged to lend to the agricultural sector.
Set up in compliance with Administrative Order No. 225-A, series of 2008, AGFP is a program undertaken by the LBP together with Department of Agriculture geared towards helping credit providers in line with the national government’s agricultural productivity program.
The crop insurance to be provided by the PCIC, on the other hand, would also help as it is a source of peace of mind for farmers during severe natural calamities that may ravage their plants, given that the benefits it offers would cushion them from acute economic losses, Frivaldo said.
He explained that the CPAS is currently engaged in the propagation of an initial one million grafted cacao seedlings in the two-hectare nursery established through the partnership a year ago in Barangay Macabog of this city.
So far, Frivaldo said, the nursery is now getting ready with its initial output of 150, 000 for distribution to the first batch of qualified farmer-cooperators in the province under a contract-growing scheme to jump-start a wide-scale production of the high-value bean in the province.
After saturating Sorsogon, the next batches of seedlings will be made available to contract-growing cooperators in all the other five provinces of the region up to the Southern Tagalog Region covered by the SLFC, he said.
This way, the merging of these two regions into the cacao contract-growing program will make the combined area the biggest source of the product that commands a good price and is extremely in demand worldwide, he said.
The world’s cacao or cocoa production is heavily concentrated, with over 50 percent of the supply coming from just two key producing nations—Ivory Coast and Ghana—from where most of the world’s biggest chocolate competitors like Nestlé, Mars, Hershey, Cargill, Heinz and Ferrero get the bulk of their supplies.
In 2010, world grindings of cocoa beans is projected at 3.6 million tons (MT), reflecting an average annual increase of 2.1 percent. In Japan, for example, imports have increased from an annual average at 48,000 MT in 1998-2000 to 56,000 MT in 2010.
In the national scene, cacao production in the Philippines produced an estimated 5,000 metric tons of beans in 2007 and could possibly reach 100,000 MT in 2020, provided that good and quality beans are produced.
Frivaldo said the continuing demand for good quality fermented cacao beans is an opportunity for Bicolano farmers to snatch some of the global demand.
“We, in this venture, seek to revitalize the cacao industry of the country, with Sorsogon and Bicol playing a vital role, given the region’s climatic appropriateness for the same crop and its huge area whose soil characteristics support cacoa growing,” he said.
The tropical weather and volcanic soil in the region is suitable for cacao farming but, unfortunately, this important high-value commercial crop has not been given due importance by Bicolano farmers in the past, hence the COOP NATCCO initiative, according to Frivaldo.
With the help of the DA and the Philippine Coconut Authority, Frivaldo said, interest in cacao production among local farmers is already increasing owing to some latest technology training and information on the local and international demand for cocoa products whose world prices have been constantly favorable.
“Now, with the LBP, AGFP and PCIC supporting us, not to mention the big help being given by the COOP NATCCO, we are almost assured of achieving our goal,” he added.