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IN CAMARINES SUR: Palay trading booms during Covid-19

MAGARAO, Camarines Sur --- While many businesses suffered huge losses as a result of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the rice milling enterprise of one of the recipients of the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s Rice Processing Centers (RPCs) is flourishing.

The rice milling facility in barangay Casuray here, which is equipped with RPC 1, RPC 2, two flatbed dryers and multi-purpose pavements, is owned by the Magarao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MMPC). It has a total of 542 members, 176 of whom are rice farmers cultivating an average of one hectare farm with a total aggregate area of 354 hectares.

Elmer Basbas, MMPC manager, said that the cooperative has been into palay milling and trading since the RPC 2 has been awarded to them in 2016.

Magarao Multi-Pupose Cooperative’s rice processing center facilities funded by the Department of Agriculture.

During the onset of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, there was a surge of orders for well- milled rice from various local government units (LGUs) for their relief assistance to their constituents during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). In fact, these LGUs purchased a total of 1,880 bags worth P2,816,250.00 in March and April this year.

The Magarao LGU bought 1,495 bags; Calabanga LGU, 200 bags; San Juan, barangay council,40 bags; San Isidro barangay council,100 bags; and Bell barangay council, 40 bags. These barangay councils belong to Magarao town.

The imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Camarines Sur in mid-March coincided with the peak of palay harvest season. Aside from that, harvesting was easier with the use of the MMPC rice harvester (DC 60) and with their practice of farm consolidation.

Anicia Mancita, Magarao municipal agriculturist, said that in 2018, the LGU clustered most of the 1,944 hectares irrigated and rainfed areas in the town into five major rice clusters namely: Centro-Magarao Irrigators Association (IA); Sta. Lucia Farmers Association; Golden Bell Farmers Association; Sta Rosa IA; and Franc Bel-Cas IA. These clusters consisted of at least 10 hectares of contiguous rice lands. The Magarao MPC was included in the Centro-Magarao IA cluster.

Farmers in the clustered areas benefitted from trainings, equipment and farm machineries both from the LGU and DA regional office.

Through farm clustering or consolidation, more parcels of rice areas were reached by irrigation water. As a result, landowners rarely sell their land but instead cultivate them or expand their rice production areas. Crop productivity is also improved with the application of synchronous planting and use of high yielding varieties and good agricultural practices.

Due to farm consolidation, land preparation and harvesting time were also shortened as the 4-wheel drive tractor and combine harvester of the MMPC does not have to travel to numerous and distant rice areas. Picking up of harvested palay was also very easy on the part of the cooperative as the rice areas are adjacent.

In their 2019 report to the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Basbas cited that the MMPC purchased 19,986 bags of fresh palay from the farmer members amounting to P16,127,349. They also bought 115 bags of dried palay, which amounted to P104,223.40.

In the same year, MMPC milled a total of 22,760 bags, 6,200 of which were under contract with National Food Authority (NFA).

From January to May 2020, MMPC purchased 10,569 bags of fresh palay at prices higher than the prevailing price in the locality. Presently, the cooperative buys fresh palay at P15.20 per kilo.

Due to the problems on mobility caused by the pandemic, farmer members need not go to the MMPC milling area as the cooperative’s hauling trucks pick up the harvested palay at the farmer’s field. MMPC also provides the sacks equivalent to the number of bags of palay harvested.

Meanwhile, a total of 13,356 bags of palay, including 5,000 bags from NFA, were milled by MMPC’s RPC from January to May 2020. The RPC milling operation, which used to last until 9:00 PM, was shortened to 8:00AM to 7:00PM due to the curfew in the town.

A concrete evidence of their booming milling business is the mountain of rice hulls that are piled at the back of the RPC building. These rice hulls are being packed in sacks and sold to private compradas at P2.50/kilo. The other income earner for the MMPC in 2019 were: the Rice Combine Harvester (DC 60), which earned for the cooperative P295,167.18 in 2019, as farmer members are paying in kind (one bag for every 10 bags of harvested palay); and the mini 4-wheel drive tractor (L3608), which generated rental earnings of P310,478.36.

Another MMPC income generating activiy is palay drying through its three flatbed dryers, a wide multi-purpose drying pavement and three units of recirculating dryers. A total of 19,840 bags of fresh palay were dried in 2019 earning fees in the amount of P15,617.00.

As of November 2019, the MMPC has an asset of P47.6 million with a loan liability of P8.4 million. Its net profit amounted to P628,742.00.

As the MMPC rice trading business flourishes, its success also trickled down to its members who are the priority in the services of the cooperative’s production loans and farm machineries and postharvest facilities. MMPC’s performance is a good example of the national government’s effort in delivering inclusive economic growth among Bicolano farmers.(Lovella P. Guarin/RAFIS 5/ Photos by Jun Collantes)

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