ILOILO City – Panay upland farmers will no longer become vulnerable to price manipulation by traders, as it has found a marketing arm – no less involving their fellow farmers, with the aid of the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Executive director of Agriculture for Western Visayas, Remelyn Recoter, said that KOICA funded the three-phase Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project (PIUSRDP) since it was implemented starting 2015.
KOICA is a government-funded agency dedicated to grant aid program.
“We are hoping that this can help our upland farmers,” she said in a phone interview Friday, following the launch of the project’s third phase in San Miguel Iloilo on Feb. 7.
The third phase project focused on boosting the marketing capability of upland farmers, hence it involved the construction of infrastructure support to include 10 Bayanihan Tipon Centers (BTCs) in selected upland areas in Panay and the biggest local food terminal (LFT) in the island that will serve as their center.
The BTCs are in the towns of Libacao and Madalag in Aklan; Patnongon, Sebaste and Tobias Fornier in Antique; Jamindan and Tapaz in Capiz; and Alimodian, Lambunao and Tubungan in Iloilo.
“They were taught how to market and what is important is that they were provided with an infrastructure where they can bring their agricultural products. The BTCs are all managed by farmers’ cooperatives,” she added.
The first phase of the project focused on the rehabilitation and repair of infrastructure damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda. The second phase was the provision of agricultural input, post-harvest facilities and capability building training.
Korean economist Dr. Haejin Yoon, who works as KOICA’s project management consultant, said the Korean government invested some USD6.5 million for the project in the form of a grant.
“This is first time in the Philippines. It is a kind of system made up of many components so that this can be replicated to other areas in the Philippines. This is a pilot project,” he said.
He added that as part of strengthening farmer capability, selected farmers were sent to Korea for an invitational training. Last year, chosen farmers completed two training programs in Korea.
As they try to champion the local food system within Panay, he said he was looking forward to the development of more products that can be exported to Korea, Japan and various parts of the Philippines.
“We are now looking at the champion product for the trade fair,” he said as among their initiatives was the March 1 trade fair to be held at Robinsons Place where the best products from the BTCs and the LFT will be showcased.
Meanwhile, apart from the infrastructure support and capability building, KOICA also provided a financial assistance of P20 million, which farmers can use as start-up capital.
The fund was downloaded to the Rural Bank of San Miguel and First Consolidated Bank, where farmers can avail of loan at an interest rate of 6 percent per year.
Jose Pepe Caoyonan, chairman of the San Miguel Farmers’ Cooperative that manages the LFT, said they will come up with a memorandum of agreement with the BTCs to determine the kind of products they will supply.
He added that farmers bringing their products to the BTCs and LFTs will incur less transportation cost, and even be spared from paying stall rental and local tax.
Under their network, farmers will just bring their produce to the BTCs for consolidation. The BTC will be the one to market their products. Also, BTCs are provided with a cargo truck for easy transport of the consolidated products to the LFT and their other target buyers.
Ricardo Doce, manager of LFT San Miguel, said what is good with the setup is that farmers will be paid outright if funds are available.
“There is a sure buyer and income is assured as long as fund is available,” he said.
Recoter said they also partnered with the Iloilo Hotel, Resorts and Restaurants Association for the project.
Bryan Paul Caspillo of the Tapaz Municipal Agriculture Office said they are now polishing their marketing strategy as they look forward to supply their produce to Batangas, where they have institutional buyers; Roxas City in Capiz; and at the Iloilo Terminal Market in Iloilo City. (PNA)