Govt program boosts turnip industry

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San Marcelino, Zambales: The One Town, One Product (OTOP) program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been improving the economy and providing jobs for the locals here.

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San Marcelino, known as the singkamas (turnip) capital of Zambales, had its weeklong fiesta that ended on Sunday with its colorful Singkamas Festival grand parade.

Singkamas or turnip is a seasonal root crop usually harvested between the months of February and March.

With this year’s theme, “Proud to be a Marcelinean,” the locals hope to popularize singkamas by showcasing different turnip products authentically made by them.

SMZ (San Marcelino Zambales) Turnips Delicacies-SEAK (Self Employed Assistance Kaunlaran) is one of its ways to promote the product. Julie Freal, 41, a day-care teacher and President of SMZ Turnips Delicacies-SEAK Association, told The Manila Times that her group is part of the OTOP program of the government.

The OTOP is a priority plan that promotes entrepreneurship and creates jobs. Through OTOP, local officials of each city and municipality identify, develop and promote a specific and competitive product or service.

“We get to have free trainings and seminars plus equipment courtesy of DTI and DOST [Department of Science and Technology] but everything else about running the business comes from our sales” Freal noted.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development-SEA-K program, which supports micro enterprises, is also helping the association.

SEAK requires organizations of five to six groups with five members to hire 25 to 30 constituents who will get P 5,000 each to start a business.

The locals said that this is a great opportunity given that most of the people here only have one job or none at all. Freal also said that this year her group is planning to add singkamas chips, biscuits and even wine on their menu.

“In order to do that, we would need more space and equipment in a more conducive area for the processing of our products,” Freal said.

Barangay Captain Cirilo “Jun” Pimentel, 36, and the largest producer of singkamas in San Marcelino admitted that “there is money in promoting our local products.”

Pimentel started in a small buy and sell singkamas business in San Marcelino and nearby towns. Now he has a 10-hectare property complete with warehouses and delivery trucks extending up to Valenzuela and Metro Manila area.

“I have always told myself that I want to prove to everyone that I can make money out of singkamas,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel also said that his singkamas products are being used by fish ball and squid ball manufacturers as extenders, which is said to last longer than artificial additives in these Filipino favorite street foods.

Freal said this is because “singkamas root crops can be stored up to six months”.

Freal, speaking in behalf of the association, said: “OTOP and SEA-K are really commendable in helping the small people.” SMZ Turnips Delicacies-SEAK accepts orders at 09081477388.

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