Agri project aids Mindanao farmers

SOME Mindanao farmers have raised their income by 47 percent after having been aided by an agricultural clustering project of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), a think tank said.

This was reported by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) in a study authored by Glenn Gregorio and six researchers.

He said the Mindanao model has proved to be a success model of the “more profitable” agricultural clustering, which focused on organizing farmers to become somehow “big.”

“Small is beautiful. But big is powerful,” said Gregorio.

After getting organized, Mindanao farmers collectively raised their production for nine vegetables out of a total of 11 that they cultivate. The increased volume of produce was accompanied by an increase in value.

This, Searca noted, as the united group captured the market of institutional buyers—supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, restaurants and fast food chains.

Selling to these bigger customers became possible as the combined farmers had a bigger volume of produce, it said, noting that it also empowered farmers to negotiate for higher prices.

The involved Mindanao farmers raised revenue from sweet pepper from P27,000 when they were disorganized to P39,000 upon clustering; bitter gourd (ampalaya), from P5,100 to P13,000; squash, from P1,000 to P10,000; and eggplant, from P4,500 to P41,000.

The other gainers were chayote, from P3,000 to P28,000; string beans, from P3,000 to P3,500; tomato, from 9,000 to P42,000; and okra, from 2,000 to 4,000.

Searca stressed net income improvement was also recorded for sweet pepper, bottomline recovered from a loss of P11,000 to a positive earnings of P22,000; bitter gourd, from P2,000 to P9,000; and squash, from a loss of P1,000 to a net income of P7,000.

For chayote, it was a leap to a net gain from P1,000 to P27,000; string beans, from P1,000 to P2,000; tomato, from P4,000 to P24,000; and okra, from P500 to P2,000.

“The difference that raised their productivity and competitiveness is knowledge transfer between farmers and the ability to produce more,” Searca said.

“Knowledge transfer pertains to appropriate input use. Information was obtained through informal channels such as observation of good practices from neighboring farmers. This also includes information about the prevailing market risk, source of inputs, and awareness of new technologies,” it added.

The success of these organized farmers were attributable to several factors, according to Gregorio.

First, farmers were linked to each other. They were able to share the same techniques and best practices.

Marketing-wise, they have been able to commit a fixed quantity and a level of quality of produce to institutional buyers. Their ability to supply the required quantity and quality enabled them to negotiate for higher prices.