TECHNOLOGY UPGRADE. Bencals Food Products proprietor Ben Calunod, and DOST Bukidnon Director Ritchie Mae Guno during the turnover of equipment earlier in June 2021. Bencals was recently provided with a PHP625,000 loan to purchase equipment, and this made the enterprise become the first cocoa butter producer in Northern Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of DOST-10

MANILA – An estimated 500 farmers have benefited from the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) of the Department of Science and Technology in Region 10 (DOST-10), an executive said Wednesday.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, DOST Bukidnon Provincial Director Ritchie Mae Guno said they recently assisted Bencals Food Products, and this assistance enabled the micro enterprise to become the first cacao butter producer in Northern Mindanao.

The DOST provided Bencals with PHP625,000 loan, enabling them to purchase brand new equipment, such as industrial hydraulic butter extractor, industrial colloid mill, and industrial multipurpose grinder.

SETUP aims to encourage and assist micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in adopting technological innovations to improve their products and operations. Through this program, the DOST helps improve the MSMEs' productivity and competitiveness by providing them with a loan that is payable in three years.

"They (Bencals) said that about 500 farmers benefited as they improved their technical knowledge and equipment. These are smallholder farmers in the municipality of Pangantucan, including other the neighboring towns like Kalilangan and Maramag," Guno said.

These farmers were tapped as sources of raw materials.

Bencals, Guno said, started in 2018. Its product innovation support project with the DOST runs from June 2021 to June 2022.

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña earlier reported that prior to being a SETUP beneficiary, Bencals had to deal with challenges on various aspects of their production, which resulted in low product quality and inefficient production process.

With DOST's assistance, Bencals is now expecting a sales increase of about 175 percent higher next year compared to 2021, both de la Peña and Guno said.

According to them, some of Bencals' products are being sold abroad through family and friends. Currently, Bencals' local clients are from Cebu and Manila.

Meanwhile, Guno said the DOST also assisted Bencals in its FDA license to operate application. "We also linked them (to those who provide) free consultations on good manufacturing practices, packaging, and labeling," she said. (PNA)