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New project to boost production of cacao, others

Banquerigo

The implementation of a new agri-business project will provide a huge boost to cacao, coffee and coconut production in the region, especially the latter which has been struggling to survive, an official of the implementing agency said.

“This will help the farmers in these three sectors in the region to boost their incomes,” said Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Assistant Regional Director Edwin O. Banquerigo, also the project director of the Rural Agro-enterprise Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth Project (RAPID Growth).

Banquerigo told TIMES that this is particularly very beneficial because the region has been in the map in terms of cacao and coffee production as well as fruit processing.

In cacao, the region accounts for about 80% of the total production of the country, the Philippine Statistics Authority said. Last year, the production was at 7,983 metric tons.

This is also necessary to develop value-added products for coconut, whose copra prices have been very low, “so that our coconut farmers can slowly find ways to add value to their produce,” he said.

As of last week, based on available data from the Philippine Coconut Authority, farmgate price of copra was at P15 a kilogram, or about P10 lower compared with the price in February.

Banquerigo  added the agency is hoping to implement the project within the last quarter of the year as it will help both the traders and producers of identified crops.

To be implemented initially in 17  provinces in Mindanao and three in Eastern Visayas, the P4.78 billion project is a “market driven program designed to help our farmers,” he added.

Of the funding requirements for the project, $62.9 million will come from the International Fund for Agricultural Development in the form of loan and another $3 million in the form of grant. The remainder will come from the national government as well as the local government units as well the project beneficiaries as their counterparts.

At present, Banquerigo said the region is still waiting for the downloading of the fund to the program, which will be implemented until 2022, and will initial cover coffee, cacao, coconut and processed fruits and nuts.

A briefer on the project said these products were identified as these “have strong domestic and international market potentials, can significantly increase productivity through better agronomic practices, involvement of large numbers of rural farmers with high final value adding potentials accruing to farmers, and engagement of a good number of cooperatives and SMEs in processing and trading segments, serving as anchor firms.”

It added it might add  other “sectors (by) taking into account jobs, livelihoods, income generating potentials and market considerations.”

“We are still in the initial stage of preparations,” Banquerigo said, adding that since it is “market-driven, we will identify the buyers and help the producers meet their goals.”

Based on its briefer, the project’s goal “is to increase the income level of small farmers and employed rural women and men across selected agri-based value chain.”

It added that this will be done through “collaborative action plans and build commercial partnerships that will sustain the growth of agri-based MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) due to the strong backward linkages to the farmers.”

By putting in place the conditions for business growth, “the project hopes to achieve and inclusive and sustainable rural and economic development.”

It added that it will employ a value chain and market driven development approach by “building commercial partnerships with MSMEs, corporations, cooperatives, and farming households that will drive agro-enterprise development thus increasing the benefits of the rural poor to a well manage market participation at the local, national and international level.”

To do this, the projects will address the “gaps along the selected value chain…through the provision of business development interventions, secure necessary access to raw materials, access to the state-of-the-art technology and equipment, support to strategy investment projects through a grant and loan component and improve market connectivity through rehabilitation of vital farm to market road segments.”

It added that it will pave the way for “more value-adding activities, increased production capacities of farmers, create more MSMEs and create more job opportunities thereby sustainably increasing income level of small farmers and unemployed rural women and men across selected value chains.”

In choosing beneficiaries, the project said these “were selected based on growth potential of the selected priority value chains in the area, poverty incidence and cluster operational efficiency considerations.”

The beneficiary provinces are Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte in the Davao Region; Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur in the Caraga Region; Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte in Northern Mindanao; North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani in South-Central Mindanao; and Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay in Western Mindanao; and, Northern Samar, Leyte and Southern Leyte in Eastern Visayas.

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