Carabaos are a good source of milk for nutrition and livelihood. What is keeping it from expanding faster? Three C’s—credit, credit, credit.
Today, 99 percent of our milk is imported. The National Statistics Office shows that our dairy product importation grew by 18 percent from $715 million in 2010 to $843 million in 2011. For food self-sufficiency, as well as providing much-needed jobs in the rural areas, we should have an aggressive program to improve domestic milk production.
For nutrition, carabao milk proves to be the best alternative. The following table is sourced from the Philippine Carabao Centre website (www.pcc.gov.ph):
SUBSTANCE CARABAO COW GOAT
Protein 4.3 3.2 3.3
Fats (gm) 6.5 4.1 4.5
Carbohydrate (gm) 5 4.4 4.6
Energy (kcal) 117 67 72
Calcium (mg) 210 120 170
Wilma del Rosario states: “Nutritionally, milk is defined as almost perfect food. It provides more essential nutrients in significant amounts than any single food. Milk is the most complete food for human beings and mammals.” Besides, she adds: “Carabao milk has 43 percent less cholesterol when compared with cattle milk.”
Anselmo Roque, in “Makati engineer turns back job to raise carabaos” published by the Daily Inquirer last April 16, states that Jaime Ramos left a Makati firm to engage in the carabao milk business. Ramos found little income in producing rice. So he went into the dairy carabao business’ and carabao milk production. He earned much more. Today, Ramos is the Chair of the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives (Nefedco) that is in the milk collection and selling of the cooperatives in his province. Ramos said, “Raising dairy carabaos definitely pays. I don’t regret turning my back in practicing my profession as an engineer.”
Angela Celis, in “New graduates see huge potential for carabao milk” published in Malaya last June 29, wrote about AB Management Economics graduates from Ateneo de Manila organizing “Haw Blends” to sell carabao milk. They partnered with the Kapuncan Cooperative in Pancan, Nueva Ecija, for the production of carabao milk, and was one of the top 10 winners in the 5th BiD Challenge Philippines organized by the Philippine Business for Social Progress.
It is encouraging to know that city dwellers and the youth are looking to agriculture and the countryside for economic opportunities such as carabao milk. This will give our agricultural development the boost it badly needs.
Unfortunately, in many instances, lack of access to credit has been an obstacle to the expansion of the carabao milk industry. Small farmers do not have the capacity to do the feasibility studies required by banks before loans are approved and released.
For both nutritional and livelihood reasons, we recommend that both government and private banks give special attention to extending loans for carabao milk production. Dr. Eric Palacpac, R&D head of the Philippine Carabao Center, says: “Much value is lost from carabao milk that is not properly preserved. Thus, small loans for milking cans (instead of plastic bags) and an innovative cooling device that you put into the milk (similar to the heating device used to heat a container of water) can add significantly to profitability.”
For larger loans that need feasibility studies, we should follow Land Bank’s example of its malunggay feasibility template. This is where all the small farmer has to do is fill in the blanks those numbers localized to his or her particular situation. With the template filled out, the feasibility study is considered complete. The loan can then be given.
Access to credit is therefore the key to expand our carabao milk industry. Less imports, more foreign exchange, better nutrition, and increased livelihood opportunities will result if the credit bottleneck that is prevalent in this industry is overcome.
(The author is chair of Agri-watch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112)