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PIA Press Release

CBBI offers financial assistance to enhance cold chain facility

by SC Aro

LA TRINIDAD (22 September) -- In improving the cold chain facility, the Cooperative Bank of Benguet, Inc. is offering financial assistance to the local government in the establishment of a toll packing plant to add value to vegetable produce and make it globally competitive.

Coop Bank of Benguet, Inc. General Manager Gerry Lab-oyan said the plant costs P10 million which is in support to the post harvest facility to maximize its utilization.

Lab-oyan said enhancement of the cold chain system through toll packing would increase the shelf life of produce as it could vacuum pack products preventing the entry of bacteria and other micro-organisms.

According to Lab-oyan, the plant has a feature that could sanitize products by removing bacteria such as E.coli and other harmful food borne micro-organisms. Bulacan is already doing the technology for non-vegetable processed foods, he added.

Coupled with the technology is proper labeling that would imprint the seal of quality products. Before a product would qualify for labeling, it entails scrutiny by experts perhaps from the academe and farmer representatives if it passes and conforms with quality products standards, Lab-oyan said.

Benguet vegetable produce has gained popularity adding that before others would patent it as their own, something has to be done, he explained.

Seemingly, toll packing and labeling are the missing link in order to maximize the use of the facility, Lab-oyan stressed.

New Benguet Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) member Christine Abellon said the province's produce have not been recognized which is why there is a need to improve quality and labeling to identify or associate these with Benguet. "We are in a global market, we have to move and put our acts together not only for the vegetable industry but other products a well," she added.

Moreover, in addition to CBBI's loan capital and concessionaire loans to cooperatives, it also financially assists farmer parents of students of the Benguet State University during enrollment allowing them to display organically produced crops at the BSU business center.

An affiliate of the NBCC, CBBI as can be recalled initiated the Organic Agriculture Congress and the Benguet Ethnic Food Festival in coordination with local government units and line government agencies which according to Lab-oyan increased trade and commerce, another means of extending assistance to farmers.

With 150 farmer-beneficiaries catering to both individuals and groups, the bank's asset has ballooned to a total of P250 million from a meager asset of P1.37 million when it started way back 1992.

In a related development, the NBCC is promoting and focusing potential areas for development such as production of organic coffee and organic agriculture. Going organic according to Abellon is reaffirming the Cordillera's cultural identity in preserving and in recognizing its traditional way of life.

Abellon said Benguet Arabica is a premium coffee with competitive advantage over other coffee varieties considering that it commands a higher price. She said the group hopes that it could be positioned in the international market.

In promoting the coffee industry, the NBCC together with multi-sectoral groups will be holding a Coffee Congress next month.

Furthermore, the NBCC committed to support the Department of Trade Industry's move for the creation of an Investments Promotion Coordinating Council that would draw policy directions of businesses in the province and the crafting and enactment of an Investment Code which serves as a roadmap for business industry.

DTI Program Management Division representative Vilma Abad said this should be a collaborative effort between and among stakeholders in the province. (PIA-Benguet) [top]

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