Revisiting Bukidnon's Coffee Terrain

Unknown to everybody’s eyes, the hinterlands of Bukidnon own the after-sought sweet coffee. In early 1980s, Philippines recognized Bukidnon as coffee province due to a world class coffee bean – sought after a premium price. This glory formerly held is yet to be regained.

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In History

Coffee as primary source of residents’ livelihood has been told in history. Economic twists and turns however gradually diminished the record. Prices of coffee beans significantly dropped that led to crop diversion – from coffee to cash crops, among others.

Coffee farmer Anecita Lumigoy recalled how they cut their coffee trees for corn. “It happened because the price of coffee cannot compensate our family’s daily needs,” said Anecita.

Industry’s Initiatives and Support

With its adoption of Industry Clustering as a development strategy, DTI embarked on providing assistance to help revive the coffee industry.

Since 2010, DTI-Bukidnon in collaboration with other business development service provider implemented initiatives that made buzz in the community. The different coffee brands proudly represented by farmers living in far flung, mountainous areas of Bukidnon received various development services.

“This initiative was strengthened with the inclusion of the coffee industry in the 3-year National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (NICCEP),” Provincial Director Ermedio Abang affirmed.

DTI supported coffee processors further through provisions of five Shared Service Facility (SSF) Projects worth PHP7.5 million.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Roving Academy (SMERA) introduced coffee farming as a business to remote community settlers through an Investment Opportunity Seminar. Robert Ansaldo, President of Rocky Mountain Arabica Coffee Company encouraged participants to treat coffee farming as a business rather than a backyard crop.

Coffee processors also received assistance like development of label designs and packaging.

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 The result: Birth of More Coffee Processors

Bukidnon is the home of IMDALSA Coffee – produced by the agrarian reform beneficiaries; Kape Maramag and Kape Napalit – products of women’s organization; and Kape Roger – product of passion from Malitbog.

In 2015, adding the list were 12 newly served farmer-organizations engaged in coffee production.

The unwinding DTI assistance reached over a thousand farmer-beneficiaries last year; generated PHP25.82 million sales, and PHP1.2 million in investments. In the first three months of 2016, the industry kicked-off with PHP4.6 million sales with plans rolled-out for continued success.

Heading forward to Specialty Coffee

Early in 2015, non-government organization (NGO) and co-coffee advocate ACDI/VOCA collaborated with DTI-Bukidnon to start developing Specialty Coffee in the province.

This combined forces opened opportunities. Four foreign coffee experts came – all affiliates of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), and trained over 40 Bukidnon coffee farmers, certified, and transformed them into becoming trainers for topics in agricultural coffee production, and post-harvest handling and processing.

Trekking through this rough and bumpy terrain of Bukidnon is never easy. But with cohesive, active Coffee Industry Stakeholders, provision of business development interventions has been made easier. Tiny steps started it all and doing it collaboratively and constantly make the coffee players alive and vibrant. 

Bukidnon's Kaamulan goes to the Mall

One can practically find everything in a mall. Beyond doing shopping, the mall has become the most popular chill-out joint day and night.

On Sundays, most families go out together to hear mass, to dine, to be entertained, to relax, and to do chores that are necessary for the coming work week. Things that are obligatory, essential, and indispensable can now be found in the mall.

An event dubbed as "A Glimpse of Kaamulan at SM CdeO" allowed the Seven Tribes of Bukidnon to gather in a mall. Organized by the Provincial Government of Bukidnon, DTI and in cooperation with the management of SM City Cagayan de Oro, the event also paved way for “Kaamulan”, the 42-year old festival of Bukidnon, to get staged outside the province for a month.

It also allowed Bukidnon's products to dip into a bigger market. The event included a five-day product exhibit featuring Bukidnon's micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in March 2015.

"A Glimpse of Kaamulan at SM CdeO" generated PHP 352,000 of gross sales from the local products displayed. The trade fair successfully brought in various products from 32 enterprises which cater fresh and processed foods such coffee, cacao, peanut products, wood and bamboo crafts, bead and art works, abaca, and other organic products all displayed in the stalls specifically devoted for the province's MSMEs.

One of the exhibitors - Alomah's Place, the producer of fresh organic vegetables - earned the highest sales among all the enterprises who joined in the trade fair. Their sales amounted to PHP 129,000. Owner Benjohn Mahistrado expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to participate and introduce their emerging products to a bigger market.

While putting Bukidnon's products in the spotlight, the trade fair also boosted the province's dynamic tourism industry by showcasing its rich culture and traditions as manifested in the dances of the seven tribes of Bukidnon performed during the opening ceremonies.

Persistence: Key To Fish Pond Owners' Answered Battle Cry

Rural life can sometimes be droning especially to farmers who have been engaged in the same farming practices over the years. Innovation might have been introduced but close to nothing has succeeded because of backwardness, disinterest, capital and poor access to development programs.

Despite treacherous tests, Linabo Agrarian Reform Cooperative (LARC) defies reasons for downfall. Located at Sitio Linabo, Lalawan, Malaybalay City, the cooperative cried out loud summoning the concerted efforts of different organizations to bring success to their perceived endeavours – including that of DTI.

With the aim of rising from the traditional farming method, LARC members organized themselves to grow, not just a step higher but a milestone greater, from individual pond owners to a strengthened group of tilapia processors.

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Seizing the Opportunities

Year 2012 when the Department of Agrarian Reform – Catholic Relief Services (DAR-CRS) introduced dried tilapia to LARC fish pond owners. “Tilapia Crunch” – patterned after the famous Danggit of Cebu, captured the taste of the locals.

Being a known Filipino dish tied with affordable price, LARC targeted low income earners in the community as primary market. To their surprise, the product also captured the taste of affluent households in the vicinity making their product easily marketable.

Overcoming Challenges

After their product was made known to the market, influx of orders came-in; then they realized the challenges that slowed them down. Challenges found behind their processing practices which are non-compliant with the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

The absence of centralized processing area, working table and proper equipment drove their member-producers to process their farm-produced tilapia wherever tap water is available – neglecting possible contamination.

Despite scarcity of resources, LARC Processing In-charge Flor Cordero encouraged members to continue. “The activity increased members’ income, thus winding-down is unreasonable,” remarked Flor.

By then, they consulted various agencies, DTI was one. In 2013, they started receiving regular business advisory from DTI-Bukidnon.

Concerted Efforts of Enabling Agencies

Seeing the relentless effort of the group, DTI-Bukidnon addressed their struggle for productivity, and processing safety and standards.

Through the Shared Service Facility (SSF) Project, Tilapia Crunch Processing Facility worth 81,000 was established on April 2014. This filled the group’s needs for equipment like freezer, impulse sealer, and stainless steel working table.

Skills Training on Tilapia Crunch Processing was also conducted to improve processing practices.

The farmers deeply recognized the sincere commitment of DTI to help them grow, teary-eyed Flor relayed.

Hearing the group’s battle cry, DAR also built a building for them worth 250,000 in 2014 where “Tilapia Crunch” is now being processed.

Advancing the group further, DTI recently conducted an appreciation seminar on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The seminar endowed valuable insights to 12 member-processors adhering to produce safe, quality products.

Along with other support agencies, DTI continuously provide technical and business advisory services to the growing group of 97 farmers, as they sustainably uphold growth and development in their organization.

Success begins with a winning product: Camiguin's Delicious Pastel

In over a nine-year period from 1980, Virgilio Jose and Eleanor Popera engaged in several business endeavors that were short-lived. However, the string of failures did not discourage the couple. Instead, it fueled their desire to do more to achieve what was then an elusive success. As most Filipinos would usually say, tongue-in-cheek: failures get charge to experience.

Before year 1989 ended, they saw another opportunity. Eleanor went into pastel-making which eventually became her signature product. On January 8, 1990, Vjandep (which simply means Virgilio Jose and Eleanor Popera) was born.

Eleanor carried an initial capitalization of only PHP 120.00. She then decided to go fulltime with the help of a relative. After several months of a steady yet low -scale operations, the demand was unexpectedly rising rapidly.

Vjandep’s daily net income rose from PHP 100 to PHP 300 on its first weeks. The profit eventually went up to a maximum of PHP 2,500 a day. With an opportunity to grow the business even more, DTI granted Eleanor a loan of PHP 25,000 for a period of one year payable at two percent per month.

In 2009, the couple was able to obtain a loan worth PHP 20 million for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) from DTI and the Development Bank of the Philippines' One-Town One-Product credit facility.

From their unstable businesses a few years back, the couple now have a multi-million peso building. From an old oven, Vjandep has acquired one of the best and well-regarded state-of-the art baking equipment. Their capacity to deliver products expanded exponentially along with a large domestic market. Also, Vjandep now has hundreds of stores in malls and supermarkets with institutional buyers from all over the country. From a PHP 120 initial capital, the business now has a capitalization of over PHP 50 million. The staff of two also grew to over 200 people who all enjoy full employment benefits.

Vjandep's management prioritizes the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of their employees by engaging them in regular sports activities, group worship, and daily morning prayers prior to their daily operations. As an industry leader in Camiguin's processed food industry cluster, Vjandep also enjoyed the Shared Service Facility (SSF) of Food Processing Equipment provided by DTI in 2013. Today, Vjandep serves as a highly-regarded distributor and consolidator of products from the Camiguin province.


The Sweet Life of Coco Farmers: Coco Sugar Business Liberates Farmers from Conventional Farming

In the village of Linabu, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, coconut not only provides food; it also nurtures dreams of farmers for a more prosperous life. Since the Linabu Agrarian Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LAMPCO), an agrarian reform community-based enterprise, started producing coco sugar in 2009, earnings have been on the rise. Currently, the cooperative has 320 members consisting of farmers and coconut processors.

In August 2009, members began producing coco sugar, a financially successful venture that received orders from institutional buyers in volumes that exceeded their processing plant's capacity. Originally engaged in micro financing, the organization experienced challenges from several fronts: financial and management problems on one hand, and low collection efficiencies and defaulted payment dues on the other. The challenges notwithstanding the leaders of the group were determined to succeed.

With an abundance of raw materials and a passionate set of leaders, the Department of Agrarian Reform took notice and the cooperative was chosen as the recipient of its Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) for Coconut Sugar Production. The operations of LAMPCO have since generated livelihood opportunities for 59 individuals from only three workers at the start of operations. After six years in the business, there are now 28 workers employed in production, 16 coco sap gatherers, three cooks, and seven members of the Board of Directors with five management officers.

Because of DTI-Misamis Oriental, the year 2015 became a banner year for LAMPCO, earning the singular distinction as Best Shared Service Facility (SSF) with the “Most Ramdam Effect" at the National level.

2015 also marks the beginning of a partnership between Negosyong Pinoy and LAMPCO. Negosyong Pinoy provides the cooperative with funds to expand its coco sugar production. This enables the cooperative to meet the demands of buyers. This also generates more income and employment opportunities for the residents of Linabu.

“With this development, current employment, both for the processing site and farm level will be doubled,” said Margie Nero, manager of LAMPCO. “This will greatly help the community as it provides a monthly income for farmers, primary and often sole breadwinners, who usually earn just twice to four times a year from conventional coconut farming.” The project freed the farmers of Linabu from the overwhelming burden of subsistence living. It has provided livelihood for farmers but also offers a healthier, sweet life for the consumers.

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