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PIA Press Release

Region 12 entrepreneurs apply for collective trademarks

by Nelly Nita N. Dillera

Koronadal, South Cotabato (5 September) -- Two collective marks were launched in Region 12 in time for the visit of Presidential Management Staff Secretary Cerge Remonde to General Santos City who was invited as Keynote Speaker for the Opening of National Tuna Exhibit.

These marks are PQ Muscovado applied for by President Quirino Muscovado Millers Cooperative (PQMMPC) based in Sultan Kudarat, and Tupi Bongulan Banana Growers Association (Tubaga) in Tupi, South Cotabato.

PQ Muscovado

PQ Muscovado's mark is a butterfly symbol emphasizing its being organically grown. In Pres. Quirino, sugarcane from which muscovado is derived, is already grown in about 1,200 hectares by over 100 individual growers who are members of about nine (9) cooperatives.

PQMMPC President Cornelio Castaneda said, the produce generates seven (7) tons of muscovado per hectare or about 700 tons per year. Current regular orders from Manila, Cagayan de Oro and Davao total more than 30 tons per month such that local retail orders can no longer be met. Buyers are generally organic banana chips producers/exporters who make sure that ingredients are really organic.

Department of Trade & Industry 12 Director Ibrahim K. Guiamadel said, it saw the need to consolidate the efforts of the many sugarcane growers in the area. Learning that collective mark similar to Trademarks can already be registered with the Intellectual Property Office, DTI-12 together with other agencies started extending assistance to the cooperative. Standards were formulated in consultation with the growers, millers, local government unit and stakeholders themselves. A series of consultation was conducted before the set of basic quality standards was finally adopted.

To be able to use the mark, the growers and millers must follow a set of quality standards from planting until milling. No pesticides or herbicides should be used. Even in the juice extraction, strict implementation of standards is required to ensure that the juice is free from any sediment. As such, it has to pass through a lot of sieving. The utensils used must be stainless. These and a lot more standards have to be complied before muscovado can be packed in one-kilogram stand-up pouch bearing the proud PQ mark.

Slowly but surely, PQ Muscovado is carving its name in the market. Mr. Castaneda has been approached by nearby sugarcane growers and muscovado millers as they want to align their production with the existing standards of the group. He has also been invited to certain muscovado gathering, for him to share their best practices.

Tubaga Collective Mark

"Tubaga" is a Visayan term meaning "respond to." This is also the guiding principle of the Tupi Balangon/ Bongulan Banana (native Cavendish) Growers Association, (TUBAGA) Inc. as it responds to the clamor of growers increase and improve their agricultural productivity and make marginal farmers economically sustainable.

If you think forests depicts uncertainty or disorderliness, better alter your appraisal as farmers in Tupi, South Cotabato are earning sizable value of dollars from what seem to be jungle plantations of bongolan banana developed in the area. Mr. Lito Apuzen, Manager of Tubaga enthused that they have to simulate the natural habitat of this native banana variety which is actually monkeys' favourite jungle food.

But there's more to a forest than meets the eye. Vegetation in the forest grows well despite the absence of any fertilizers or insecticides. This too, is practiced by the group thereby producing Organic Bongolan Bananas. Fruit harvests from the area are chemical-free hence, are safe to the health of consumers, safe to growers, and safe to environment. "We use composted farm and animal waste, utilize organic sprays that generate growth of indigenous micro-organisms (IMOs) preys on harmful fungi, and maintain the sanitation in the area," disclosed Mr. Apuzen.

More than 200 hectares are now planted with organic bongolan banana in Tupi from the meager five hectares in 2001 when the farmers started planting. The negligible 100 boxes produced and exported then have swelled to as much as 900 tons, exported mainly to Tokyo, Japan. More and more farmers are becoming interested in the venture. "They don't have to convert or clear their existing crop lands. Bongolan banana grow better when interspersed with orchards, coconuts or others," mused Mr. Apuzen. What used to be an additional source of income has now become a major source of income for most farmers because bongolan commands good price in the international market. This sector fetches more than US $380 thousand in sales annually.

Trade & Industry 12 director Ibrahim Guiamadel also underscored that the Fruit Industry is one of the four priority industries pushed by the department in the area, the others being palm oil, aquamarine and information, communication and technology. DTI-12 is serving as the secretariat of the Fruit Industry Development Council (FIDCI)12 which objective is to realize tangible results such as investments, sales and employment from the sector.

Seeing the need to gather their efforts together, over 100 members signed up to follow the basic quality standards so as to make use of the collective mark "Tubaga." The Local Government of Tupi, Provincial Government of South Cotabato, National Economic Development Authority 12 designated fund support for International Organic Certification expense and for Organic bongulan Banana Production and Marketing Project.

The international organic certification, Ecocert will even more bring Tubaga to further heights as this is a certification is recognized internationally. An inspection and certification body that verifies conformity of organic products with regulations of international market.

Secretary Remonde's Reward

PMS Secretary Remonde was quick in responding "magaling, magaling magaling" after the two collective mark registrants delivered their respective piece. He paid respect to the management committee staff of DTI-12 as the real actors and frontliners in the countryside and challenged especially the government workers to make a social payback. "Translating the economic benefits refers to improving the lives of the people," Remonde added, "OTOP is DTI's entry point."

In closing, Remonde said that "much has been accomplished, more has yet to be done, but remember the greatest reward is a job well done." (DTI 12/PIA 12) [top]

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