Integrating value chain in agri-enterprises
October being national Co-operative Month, this corner would like to share significant updates to highlight the contribution of cooperatives in social and economic development.
I had the privilege last Sunday of joining co-op stakeholders in the blessing and inaugural of the “Dairy Box” in Ibarra Street in the Parian district of Cebu City. Located inside the compound of the Cebu City branch office of the highly diversified Lamac Multi-Purpose Co-operative (MPC).
The “Dairy Box” offers carabao milk food products like drinks and pastries. The agri co-op has a carabao breeding station in Pinamungahan where cara milk is collected and processed into milk and pastry products, thus generating livelihood and job opportunities for co-op members especially women.
There’s also a “Fresh Picks” section where customers can buy fresh vegetables on a daily basis. Because the vegetable supplies come directly from co-op members in the mountain barangays of Sudlon and Cantipla, the co-op effectively cancels out the middlemen in the distribution and makes prices in the range of those being sold in Carbon central market.
Aside from fair prices, customers, whether they’re co-op members or not, will also appreciate the store’s spic-and-span look. Located on the ground floor of the three-storey co-op building, the “Dairy Box” is fully air-conditioned and the store clerks are very friendly. The look and ambience is comparable with high-end supermarkets selling organic produce.
Having said that, the “Dairy Box” can enhance the local tourism industry. In fact, I placed this facility in the itinerary of a federal credit union leader who will visit Cebu City this month. With Cebu CFI Community Co-operative, Cebu People’s Co-op and the Dairy Box of Lamac in his itinerary, Mr. William Rol of the Matanuska Federal Credit Union of Alaska and Waipahu, Hawaii will certainly be in for lots of surprises and learnings from this exposure trip.
The inaugural is significant in the sense that Lamac MPC has fully realized the integration of value chain in its agricultural enterprises. For the longest time, farmers have been reduced to the margins because even as they struggle with the steep prices of fertilizers and lack of hired hands, they are not able to sell their products at fair prices. Oftentimes, they are being exploited by some middlemen who extend loans with usurious charges.
Fortunately, Lamac MPC stepped in with interventions in collaboration with other nongovernment organizations like the Jollibee Group Foundation.
The partnership forged in 2008 has paid off with the financial backing of the National Livelihood and Development Corporation and the guidance of co-op leaders like General Manager Ellen Limocon and Chairman Delfin Tuquib.
I recall an interview I had with Ma’am Ellen and Mr. Tuquib three years ago (read: Learnings From a Village Co-op, CDN December 04, 2014) in which they lamented the distrust of farmers in state and corporate interventions because the only partnership they know is with politicians who regularly dispense political favors in terms of dole-outs during election period.
To make the long story short, the farmers of Sudlon and Cantipla who didn’t have any bank deposits since birth have since become co-op members collectively owning delivery trucks that bring their fresh produce to five-star hotels and supermarkets around the city. During last Sunday’s inaugural, there were close to 20 mountain barangay farmers who attended the ceremonies and listened to guest speakers.
One of them is Dr. Arnel del Barrio, executive director of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. Dr. Del Barrio came in the company of PCC-7 Regional Director Caro Salces who both delivered inspirational messages. But as Department of Agriculture Region 7 OIC Regional Director Marina Hermoso and Elsie Fe Tagupa, head of Landbank Visayas Lending Group, both pointed out in their separate messages, they were the ones inspired by the amazing journey and growth of Lamac MPC.
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