Rice Processing Centers: farmers’ refuge during calamities

BUHI, Camarines Sur ---As the Bicol region was battered successively by Typhoons “Quinta,” “Rolly” and “Ulysses” in October and November, this year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) -funded Rice Processing Centers (RPCs) in this municipality served as refuge during the devastating storms for over 70 families.

Simeon Molina, general manager of the San Antonio Farmers Irrigators Multi-purpose Cooperative (SAFIMCO) said that since the first RPC-1 was turned over to them in 2014, they always opened the facility as evacuation center for the typhoon affected families.

“Malaki po ang pasasalamat namin sa DA RFO 5 dahil nabigyan kami ng dalawang RPCs, isang napakaluwang na bodega at P1-million working capital sa bawat RPC,” Molina said.

The coop was one of the recipients of DA’s 37 RPCs situated all over rice producing areas of the Bicol region. The P5.5 million-worth RPCs have one set multipass rice mill with minimum output capacity of one ton/hour milled rice; one 300 square meter warehouse; and weighing scale.

The coop started on palay trading in 2014. As it expanded its operation catering to 400 farmer members with a total irrigated rice area of 300 hectares, the association received another complete package of RPC-1 and P1-million capital from DA Bicol in 2018. The coop also received a rice combine harvester, flatbed dryer and grain collector.

From 2014 to 2018, SAFIMCO bought a total of 11,787 kilos of palay from farmers worthP9.56 million. The coop milled the palay and sold them as milled rice thereby earning profit. In 2019, SAFIMCO sold a total of 2,099 bags of rice worth P3.3 million.

The coop achieved its highest income this 2020 during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when it sold a total of 2,413 bags rice worth P3.9 million from March to June 2020.

The increase in sales was due to the demand for milled rice from local government units (LGUs) for their relief assistance. The LGU of Buhi bought 1,300 bags milled rice from SAFIMCO; Polangui barangay councils bought 300 bags; and three barangay councils of Iriga City bought a total of 150 bags milled rice.

Aside from palay trading, SAFIMCO is currently engaged in input dealership, and micro finance. The coop offers a low-interest agricultural loan to farmer members at P15,000 per hectare payable in 4 months.

Molina said that they are using the P1- million cash award the coop received from DA-NIA in 2015 in this loan scheme.

The coop was also a recipient of a Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) in 2014. DA provided SAFIMCO with cold storage facilities, technical assistance and working capital. The BFT which serves as depository of the farmers’ agricultural produce helped make basic necessities and quality food like rice, fish, vegetables and fruits, available to the residents who used to travel 13 kilometers just to buy necessities at the town proper.

Molina said that from their P375,000 BFT package, the coop was able to sustain the BFT operations through the years and their BFT is currently worth P700,000.