By Lovella P. Guarin
PILI, Camarines Sur --- This is a dream come true! exclaimed Edison Petallo, amidst the welling of his tears as he formally accepts, in behalf of the Binanuaanan Farmers Community Development Association Inc. (BFCDA), the P2M worth Cacao Processing Facility from the Department of Agriculture, during its blessing, inauguration and turn over last April 6, 2018 in Barangay Binanuaanan of this town.
DA Bicol, through its High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), recently completed the construction of the processing facility and turned it over to BFCDA in this municipality.
Edison Petallo, the president of the association, said the establishment of the processing center is the long awaited dream of the association as they can only apply for License to Operate and Product Registration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) if they have a processing center.
Rosita Imperial, regional HVCDP coordinator, said the facility is a first in Camarines Sur, and will be equipped with cacao roaster, grinder, pulverizer and vacuum sealer.
Fermentation boxes will also be provided to produce quality fermented cacao bean to improve the quality of dark chocolate or tablea. The facility will create additional jobs and value adding activities.Fermenting dried cacao beans for only five days will increase selling price to P150 from only P30 selling price of fresh cacao beans.
The DA HVCDP will also provide trainings on new technology in cacao processing for the association. A multi-commodity solar dryer will also be established adjacent to the cacao processing facility as the 310 sq. meters Choco Farm is also a haven to organic vegetables and other crops.
In the past years, the DA has conducted some trainings on Good Agricultural Practices for cacao and gabi for the members of the BFCDA. A seedling nursery was also provided to the association.
The BFCDA is an agrarian reform beneficiary organization (ARBO) organized and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2009. Currently, it has 103 members coming from the 11 barangays of Pili, namely Binanuaanan Sur, New Binanuaanan, La Purisima, Binobong, Palestina, Caroroyroyan, Sto. Nino, Bagong Sirang, Curry, San Jose and Del Rosario. Some 37 of them are cacao growers and 25 members (19 of whom are women) will focus on cacao production and processing.
Petallo said they have been processing cacao food products in the individual households of members since 2013.
A group of 25 persons started from the initial P5,000 capital collected from the members. Now they are processing 40 kilos cacao beans into different food products, such as sweetened and unsweetened tablea de cacao; tablea candy in pouch; semi-sweet tablea in muscovado; chocolabat; choco-meric ice cream; and empanaditas de cacao. They also process other food products such as extra strong instant salabat with turmeric and pandan; 10 in1 instant salabat; sugar coated pili nuts; peanut butter; kapeng barako; banana and sweet potato chips; atchara and dried gabi leaves which they process out of 150 kilos fresh harvests every 15 days.
These food products are being sold in Pasalubong Centers in Pili and Naga City under the label B-Farm Products in various attractive packaged achieved with the aid of the Department of Trade and Industry.
Pili Mayor Tomas Bongalonta expressed hope that with the establishment of the cacao processing facility, and with the existing 20 hectaresof cacao plantation in Pili, his town will soon be the center of cacao industry in the province and even in the region.
Other national government agencies that have been supporting the BFCDA have pledged additional support to the group.
Mary Ann Palmero who represented the Camarines Sur provincial director of the Department of Trade and Industry has invited the BFCDA to bring their products to trade fairs, particularly in the upcoming international trade fair. The DTI has also been instrumental in the creation of the mandatory information in the B-Farm products label – the nutrition facts of cacao.
President Petalio has also attended 10-sessions of Kapatid Mentor Me Program of the DTI.
Meanwhile, the Department of Science and Technology provincial office represented by Pat Felizmenio, committed to provide trainings on food safety and good manufacturing practices in preparation for their application for FDA certifications.
Department of Agrarian Reform provincial office representative Gay Labad, on the other hand, lauded the BFCDA, especially Petallo, for their sheer determination and persistence to achieve the goals of the association.
After the organization of the BFCDA in 2009, DAR has been patiently assisting them with the needed trainings to production support. Recently, the association has been identified as site for Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty in Camarines Sur. “Ang makusog na organisasyon, namamakyaw nin proyekto sa gobyerno,” said Labad.
Also present during the inauguration were the members of the BFCDA; Binanuaanan Bgy. Captain Marcelo Buscargas; Pili Municipal Agriculturist Damaso Olivares; DA APCO Nena Adupe who represented DA Bicol RTD for Operations Rodel P. Tornilla.
Pili is a first class municipality and the capital town of the province of Camarines Sur. Composed of 26 barangays, it is one of the towns that comprise the Metro Naga area, serving as the center for agro-industrial development.