DA spices up typhoon rehab thru chili prod'n

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


CATEEL, Davao Oriental -- A year and a half after the typhoon Pablo destroyed coconut plantations, the face of devastation is now replaced by mushrooming hot chili farms.

"Most of the farmers here are dependent on coconut for livelihood. While DA [Department of Agriculture] is helping them rehabilitate their coconut farms there is a need for immediate source of income," said DA XI regional director Remelyn Recoter.

"Chili is suitable as it is fast growing, high yielding and with huge demand in the local and international markets," Recoter said adding chili is a staple household condiment among the locals.

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The Subangon Dumang Makers (SDM), a major chili processor has also partnered with DA to assist their growers who had been affected by Typhoon Pablo.

"Despite the disaster, we needed to go on with chili processing to continuously supply our existing institutional markets," said SDM chairman Edgardo Arisola.

Clusters of chili production areas were organized. Each cluster covers at least 3-hectare farm within 10-kilometer radius.

The DA through its High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) provided 600 packs of chili as starter seeds, with each pack good for 1,000 square meters coverage.

According to DA-HVCDP, 1,000 square meters of chili farm could yield an average of 800 kilos of fresh chili. Minus the production cost, a farmer could earn P37,000 per cycle or an annual net income of P74, 000 with only a small fraction of land being utilized.

"The seeds provided by DA had been very helpful as farmers were able to immediately start planting and revived damaged chili plantations," Arisola said.

"Were it not for the chili seeds, it would be difficult for us to recover from typhoon's devastation as we need to spend for our basic needs such as food and housing materials," said SDM grower Junuel Batao.

Through DA's assistance, the number of chili farmers in the east coast of Davao Oriental dramatically increased from 247 to more than 1, 500 growers. Anticipating production surplus, DA-HVCDP XI provided UV plastics for farmers to install tent-type solar dryer for chili processing aside from providing production management training.

"Compared to conventional drying the dryer from DA has reduced our drying time from 4 and 1/2 days to only 3 days. It has helped us minimize losses as well as increased our income," said Juselyn Balilahon.

Balilahon earns P22,200 per harvest of dried chili where it is priced at P150 per kilo while fresh chili is only P65 a kilo.
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"Our participation to agri-trade exhibits eventually paid off as we were able to tap institutional markets such as Porky's Best, Kablon Farms, and Green Mindanao who uses chili powder as one of the ingredients of their products," Arisola said, adding that marketing outlets are now in place in several malls in the region.

He said the Green Mindanao has purchased 120,000 kilos of chili powder and brought it to Yolanda affected areas where women were tapped in repacking.

"A product of typhoon Pablo affected communities is helping the recovery of typhoon Yolanda victims," Arisola said.

But the biggest boost to their sales came when Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala linked their association to have a marketing contract with the Vegetable Importers, Exporters, and Vendors Association Inc. (VIEVA).

The said vegetable exporter has given them an advance payment of P1.150 million for 2.5 metric tons of chili powder exported to Guam, USA.

Having heard in the news how typhoon victims in Davao Oriental recovered out of chili production, Mayor Nazif Ahmad Abdurahman of Simunul in Tawi-tawi was inspired to enhance their chili production.

In the Tawi-tawi province alone there is already a huge demand where a kilo of fresh chili gets a premium price of P300 to P700 per kilo. The growers there are also eyeing Sandakan and Sabah in Malaysia as its potential markets as chili is part of every Muslim meal.

"For us Muslims, our meal is not complete without chilies," Abdurahman said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 28, 2014.

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