Facility to make entrepreneurs out of farmers | Inquirer Business

Facility to make entrepreneurs out of farmers

/ 10:28 PM April 16, 2011

LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET, Philippines—A modern facility here will soon be turning out a new breed of “farmer entrepreneurs” who not only will learn how to till the soil, but can also add value to their crops and increase their income.

“We are now in the age of computers, so it’s time our farming becomes precise,” says Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. “The more precise and scientific our farming, the more our farmers can earn.”

Alcala was referring to programming and rotating crops, zoning farms, calculating the appropriate production volume that could command a good price at a ready market, and applying the right amount of chemical inputs for a particular type of soil.


In applying the right amount of inputs, farmers, particularly those who use inorganic chemicals, can meet international standards on tolerable limits of pesticides, Alcala explains.


But the agriculture chief and local officials acknowledge that farmers can get a fairer deal from their crops if they also are given the opportunity to “add value” to their produce through processing. Then they can market their goods through a system that favors farmers more than traders.

Given this opportunity, farmers may also become entrepreneurs, the officials say.

The Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Benguet provincial government and the La Trinidad town government, the Benguet State University (BSU) and the Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative, has embarked on a multimillion-peso project to be built in this town.

The facility, called the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center Project, promises to give better prices for farmers’ produce, says Alcala.

The agriculture chief was in town on April 13 to sign a memorandum of understanding with the DA’s partners.

The facility will be put on a four-hectare lot at a swamp here, displacing some 58 strawberry and vegetables farmers who will be compensated and settled elsewhere.


Alcala handed a check worth P1.25 million to the farmers as initial payment for their damaged crops because the area was being readied for construction.

The new trading center, its proponents say, will help Benguet farmers by making their marketing system more efficient.

This capital town has a trading post, built in 1984, where farmers sell their produce to traders, most of whom come from Metro Manila. But the trading post has become quite congested that farmers have to wait for as long as a day before they get to sell their crops.

The Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), which was commissioned to study the project’s feasibility, say that as many as 1,000 trucks carrying a total of 1,000 tons of vegetables queue up daily at the trading post.

With the modern trading center, buyers and sellers will no longer have to contend with congestion and other problems,” says DAP vice president Arnel Abanto.

A computerized trading system will be set in place at the new facility to ensure that the farmer will have sold his crops in less than 30 minutes.

Project proponents will also be installing a processing and cold storage facility at the trading center. There will also be commercial area (such as cafeteria and dormitory) and an area to manage and process wastes, especially turning vegetable refuse into compost fertilizers.

Following up on a suggestion made by organic farmer Ian Abansi during one farmers’ forum, Alcala instructed the designers of the trading center to include an exclusive stall or facility for organic produce.

“This is to ensure that organic vegetables won’t get contaminated,” says Abansi.

Dr. Rogelio Colting, BSU president, says the trading center will also allow students and researchers of BSU to practice their skills and offer their services to boost the vegetable industry.

It is through the processing facility—where vegetables will be washed and cleaned—and cold storage that farmers can add value to their crops when these are marketed to high-end buyers from Metro Manila, such as shopping malls and hotels.

The agriculture department, Alcala says, will also help farmers in linking up with potential customers abroad.

The trading center’s programmed operation, however, presupposes programmed cropping.

So those who will manage the facility will have to sign contract-growing and production and marketing agreements with farmers.

The idea, says Abanto, is to maximize the use of the facility and to avoid overproduction, which can lead to losses for farmers.

But in case of overproduction, the new facility, in the long term, seeks to further process vegetables, which can be packed for instant addition to soup or other dishes, says Alcala.

For the programmed operation at the new trading center and programmed production at the farmers’ end to work, farmers need to organize and synchronize farm production, both Abanto and Alcala stress.

“In this kind of programmed operation, we can not leave anything to chance … but everything must be organized in order to [achieve] the calculated results,” said Alcala.

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Programmed operation leads to faster transaction or exchange of money, a development Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan says will enable farmers to earn more so they can buy household appliances and vehicles and send their children to school.

TAGS: Agriculture, entrepreneur

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