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THE NEW LICENSED MASSAGE THERAPISTS CAN’T STOP SMILING because finally their efforts paid off after undergoing a very tedious review on the Course Work for Massage Therapy before taking the Licensure Examination on December 2011. Forty LMTs in Davao Region took oath on January 27 at Grand Menseng Hotel, Davao City. (Photo by Melvia Malubay/LMT)
Davao Region

PIA Press Release
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Feature: Diversified banana farm rakes in millions for Kapalong farmers’ coop

Exporting bananas is a lucrative business by itself. Yet, the AMS Employees Fresh Fruits Producers Cooperative or AMSEFFPCO did not just settle for this one venture.

AMSEFFPCO has found ways at diversifying benefits from its banana plantation other than exporting, making it at present one of the biggest farmer cooperatives in Davao Region with over P25 million worth of current assets as reported in the coop’s financial statement for 2010.

Located in Barangay Sampao, Kapalong town, the cooperative took off from its members who were once plantation workers, to the current status as members of the cooperatives and co-owners of the land they are tilling, awarded to them under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

From getting its main income from export receipts, the cooperative ventured into the production of flour from banana, and the use of their manufactured organic fertilizers.

Four years ago, the coop has put up its own Banana Flour Livelihood Center where its food grade banana flour is being processed and packed with high quality and safety, best for cakes and pastries.

AMSEFFPCO has also developed the bio-organic fertilizer from the wastes of the banana flour production that collects an average volume of three tons of banana peelings and stalks per day.

Banana production

Since the Department of Agrarian Reform in the region awarded the plantation to the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in 2002, AMSEFFPCO has been growing exportable bananas as its main business, continuing their work when they were then workers for the corporate farm owner.

Its first production reached 1,416 boxes and sold to AMS Farming Corporation at $2.15 per box. It earned them a gross income of P136,118.24.

For the first three years, the coop collectively managed the operations of the banana plantation with the coop members as workers who were each paid a minimum daily wage.

The banana production for this period was said to be sufficient, but the high cost of farm inputs and labor have brought low income for the coop.

Noting the slow returns of investments, the coop adopted in 2005 the individual farming system wherein ARBs are provided an equal share of 0.73-hectare farm for them to work on.

The ARBs grow and tend their own bananas in their respective farm and sell their products to the coop.

The coop expanded its coverage by developing nearby farms with an aggregate area of 50 hectares in Barangay Sampao. The new area involves 25 farmer growers who are now registered as associate members of the coop.

At present, AMSEFFPCO supplies for Dole Philippines at $2.94 per box, by which $0.15 share per box goes to the coop.

Banana flour production

Instead of throwing away Class “C” fresh bananas, considered reject and unqualified for export due to failure to meet standard calibration, AMSEFFPCO turned it into valuable and money-spinning enterprise, making flour out of it.

The Department of Trade and Industry helped the coop test the product suitability for a baking ingredient. The flour has been tested in bakeries, and is confirmed to be 100 per cent flour, a good substitute for rice flour.

AMSEFFPCO’s Musa Banana Flour has penetrated the local market, and has been adapted as Kapalong’s One Town One Product (OTOP).

Presently, the coop produces five tons of the food grade banana flour and 15 tons of feed grade per month, and supplies Butuan and Manila catsup processing corporations.

At a plant gate price of P15 per kilo, the food grade flour generated more than P1.5 million gross income for the coop last year. The amount also covered the income from the feed/industrial grade flour at P8 per kilo.

AMSEFFPCO has put up the business through the P1 million funding under the Poverty Zone Program the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE-11). The money was used to acquire its processing equipment in 2007 for feed mill.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST-11) also extended technical support for the analysis and upgrading of the quality of the product. The Department of Agriculture provided funding of P1 million for upgrading technology on Banana Flour production.

Barangay and municipal local governments, private firms and non-government organizations have also reached out to help the coop manage and operate the flour enterprise.

The banana flour production livelihood has provided employment to 38 men and women including indigenous peoples’ families in the community. The workers are called peelers who remove banana peelings.

Bio-organic fertilizer

The usefulness of the banana rejects does not end from the meat being dried and powderized into banana flour. AMSEFFPCO also developed the bio-organic fertilizer from the wastes of the banana flour.

According to the coop, the processing of bio-organic fertilizer and vermi composting is made up of 50% banana stalks and peels, 40% hog manure, 10% carbonized rice hulls, organic composter and enzymes as enhancer for early decomposting.

The coop produces 175 bags per heap bio-organic fertilizer at 50 kilos per bag, with three heaping per week.

The bio-organic fertilizer addresses the pressing needs of the cooperative members for farm inputs in their banana plantation that requires 40 bags of fertilizer per hectare at two applications per year.

The total organic fertilizer requirement per quarter reaches to 7,480 bags, and a total of almost 30,000 bags per year.

AMSEFFPCO has also come up with the development of the bio-organic fertilizer in support to the government’s advocacy on wastes recycling and utilization.

Other livelihood projects

The varied enterprises of the coop are not only based on its banana products, but also in consumer, oil palm trees and cassava productions, pharmacy and shop business, and a bio-organic vegetable production.

In its oil palm production, the coop provides financial assistance to farmers with lands not suitable for banana, but viable for oil palm trees.

The coop has forged a marketing tie-up with the Agusan Mill of Agusan del Sur and Kapalong Cooperative for financial assistance for this project that will involve a 50-hectare area. As of now, about 50 hectares have been developed and planted to oil palm in Sitio Marquez, Barangay Sampao and Sitio Mahayahay, Barangay Mamacao.

AMSEFFPCO’s bio-organic vegetable production is located at a 3,000-square meter area where flowers and vegetables grow.

According to the coop’s financial statement in 2010, over P 4.4 million earning was obtained from the rice production, while about P5.6 million was gained from the agriculture supplies and materials.

The cassava production earnings reached to P204,271 last year.

With its best practices and innovations the coop has become one of the agri-industrial tourism destinations in Kapalong, where visitors and business groups drop by to get a brief lecture on its business and achievement.

Effective management

The coop was first managed by Rizalie Calma who is now a barangay kagawad in Barangay Sampao. At present, AMSEFFPCO is operating under manager

Sincere Casimina and chair Anselma Ronquillo with seven female and six male office staff who are all members of the cooperative.

Calma has once raised the importance of consulting with the proper agencies that are knowledgeable in the agriculture and business aspects.

She said that “hard-work and patience are also keys to success in every endeavor we will take.”

This millionaire coop comprises of 97 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) collectively awarded with 72 hectares of agricultural land fully planted with exportable Cavendish bananas in the municipality of Kapalong, Davao del Norte. The land was formerly owned by the AMS Farming Corporation.

The diversified business undertakings of AMSEFFPCO are a unique practice that brings in constant progress and prosperity for a farmers’ cooperative in Davao Region.

The coop’s exemplary and laudable achievements in farming, entrepreneurship and ecological contributions have earned it several recognitions and awards from government agencies and private sectors.

The citations include Most Outstanding Small Farmers Organization in Kapalong; Gawad Saka Award as Outstanding Small Farmers Organization of Davao del Norte; and Most Outstanding One Town One Product (OTOP), among many others. (PIA-11, Carina L. Cayon/with reports from Dolly Amaut/DAR-11)

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