AGRI-ENTREPRENEURSHIP. Members of the Northern Bayambang Multi-purpose Cooperative pose in front of the tractor given by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2021. The group currently has a new venture with Jollibee Group Foundation through the assistance of DAR. (File photo courtesy of DAR Pangasinan)

BAYAMBANG, Pangasinan – Members of the Northern Bayambang Multipurpose Cooperative (NBMPC), a group of farmers who mostly are agrarian reform beneficiaries in this town, are excited about their new venture with Jollibee Group Foundation with the assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the local government unit (LGU) as they go into entrepreneurship.

Composed of 191 members at present from the initial 16 members when the cooperative started in 2011, the farmers are into planting rice, corn, onion and other vegetables.

“We have joined a federation of cooperatives who are into consolidating products to sell through collective marketing,” Jesus Lavarias, manager of the NBMPC, said in an interview on Friday.

Through the federation, the group was able to connect with the Jollibee Group Foundation, Inc., which is the social development arm of Jollibee Foods Corporation that taps communities for projects with social impact and results.

Lavarias said the partnership began in 2018, wherein the foundation provided them with agro-entrepreneurship training.

“Tinuruan kami ng tamang pagnenegosyo (They taught us how to do business),” he said.

The foundation, according to Lavarias, was interested in acquiring white onions from the farmers' group based on their standard of food quality and safety.

“Tinuruan din kami kung paano makukuha yong size na kailangan nila (They also taught us how to achieve the size requirement),” he said.

He added that they were also taught to use organic fertilizer in their production for food safety purposes.

In 2019, their product was approved by the foundation and this year they are ready to provide a portion of the company’s white onion requirement.

Dati ayaw naming masyado sa white onion kasi malalaki pero murang binibili sa amin pagdating sa merkado pero ngayon mayroon na kaming direct buyer (Before, we usually do not like to plant white onion because of its big size and they buy it from us at a cheaper price in the market but now we have a direct buyer),” Lavarias said.

He said the company required 40,000 kilos of white onion per cropping or 50 percent of their produce in a one-hectare land.

He added they have given a supply plan and module to follow in their agreement with the foundation.

Walang expiration yong agreement namin pero magbabase sila sa performance namin kung nakakasunod kami sa standard ng produkto (There is no expiration in our agreement as it will be based on our performance in following the standard of the product),” he said.

Manuel Chua, NBMPC chairman, said they are hopeful that this project would help their members in the cooperative.

“This will be a big help to our cooperative,” he said.

Lavarias said they were negatively affected by the pest (harabas) in the recent harvests.

“From our PHP2 million capital, we are down to PHP96,000 because we cannot force our members to pay their loan from the cooperative due to the recent losses,” he said.

He added that they have also invested a lot in farm inputs including fertilizer that have increased in price by almost 200 percent.

Nat'l, local gov't's role

Lavarias said the different national government agencies such as the DAR as well as LGUs have been helpful with the provision of fertilizers and other livelihood programs as well as farm mechanization.

The cooperative has received tractor and water pumps, among others, from DAR.

The NBMPC is one of the beneficiaries of DAR’s Sustainable and Resilient Agrarian Reform Communities (SuRe ARCs) project this year.

The DAR is set to provide a greenhouse technology and tissue culture technology in partnership with the Pangasinan State University-Sta. Maria, which has the technical capacity to implement the tissue culture project.

“The project will help us maintain the quality of the white onion we produce. We are grateful to DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III and to all the staff of DAR and to Jollibee Group Foundation for their support and partnership,” Lavarias said. (PNA)