Today is: Fri, May 24, 2013
GenSan Vegetable Cooperative Bounces Back From Drought, Eyeing Export Markets
MANILA, Philippines — Greenland Multi-Purpose Cooperative, one of the biggest asparagus producers in General Santos, is recovering from a drought in exports by concentrating on the domestic market and is now training its sights again for new export markets.
Cooperative president Rogelio “Roger” Pascual said this as he stressed that the key to success was to become aggressive in establishing new markets.
In 2010, Pascual said the cooperative participated in a forum organized by the Vegetable Enthusiasts and Growers Society (VEGS) in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program.
The forum provided an opportunity not only to learn about the latest farming technologies, but also to meet with prospective buyers and to learn their specific quality and volume requirements.
“It enabled our group to expand its marketing network, which is very important in the vegetable business,” Pascual explained.
USAID/GEM, through its Targeted Commodity Expansion Project (TCEP) component, then introduced Greenland to a Manila-based company that supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to supermarket chains and other bulk buyers.
Initial introductions were soon followed by market reconnaissance visits to Manila for meetings with more prospective buyers, which USAID also organized.
To help Greenland improve the post-harvest handling of its produce, USAID provided the cooperative with food-grade plastic crates and stainless sorting tables for use in its daily sorting and packing operations.
Today, Greenland ships an average of 300 kilos of fresh asparagus daily to several buyers, including major supermarket chains, hotels and restaurants in Cebu and Manila.
In mid-2011, USAID assisted the cooperative in drafting a project proposal for the construction of a new packing house and cold storage facility that would replace their makeshift packing area, help maintain the freshness of their harvests, and serve to store excess produce.
The cooperative submitted the project proposal for possible funding to the Department of Agriculture (DA) through its financing arm, the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR). The proposal was approved by the DA, with DA Secretary Proceso Alcala leading a ground-breaking ceremony a few weeks later.
The new packing house was turned over to the cooperative last month at a ceremony attended by Reed Aeschliman, Deputy Mission Director of USAID/Philippines, and officials from the DA, NABCOR and the local government.
To help Greenland maximize the most of its new packing and storage facility, USAID provided the cooperative with chillers, weighing scales, stainless dipping tubs, trolleys, and other equipment.
Pascual said that Greenland, whose members have a combined farming area of 50 hectares and can produce 500 to 700 kilos of asparagus daily, is close to achieving its long-term goal of penetrating lucrative markets abroad.
“The export market offers good returns as long as you are able to meet the strict quality requirements of foreign buyers,” said Pascual. He added that the cooperative was finalizing a supply agreement with a Korean buyer, while negotiating with other prospective foreign clients.
“We’re doing a lot better now, thanks to the assistance provided by USAID and DA. We’re working hard to continually improve the quality of our produce and gain a strong foothold in local markets—and abroad,” Pascual concluded.
Pascual related that farming cooperative here is proving that with persistence and marketing know-how, an organization can overcome setbacks and emerge stronger in the process.
For three years, they supplied the asparagus requirements of a multinational company. Bound by its contract grower agreement with the firm, the cooperative enjoyed a steady revenue stream which provided its members with a stable source of income and enabled them to expand production.
In the fourth year of the partnership, however, noted delays in the company’s payments to the cooperative. The delays in payments by as much as thirty days created cash flow problems for the cooperative.
“It was a difficult time. We could no longer afford the daily wages of our workers and other overhead costs,” Pascual recalled.
After consulting its members, the cooperative’s management decided to discontinue the contract agreement with the company and to look for new buyers. It was a risky move, but deemed necessary to ensure Greenland’s longer-term survival.
The assistance from the USAID was the key to make recover from the loss of a foreign buyer, Pascual said.