THE Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental is prioritizing to increase the production of Oolong tea this year as it plans to expand its tea farm and establish a processing and packaging center in Gingoog City.
The Oolong plant is found in Mount Balatukan, barangay Kalagunoy, Gingoog City and is grown by Higaonon farmers living nearby.
Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano said the province will focus on the rehabilitation of the area with the aim of mass producing the tea.
Benjamin Boston, focal person of the Oolong tea project, said the tea farm sits on a 5-hectare area in Mt. Balatukan, 12 kilometers away from the city proper.
The project was spearheaded by a group of Taiwanese investors in 1997 but was abandoned two years ago.
Boston said the province took over the project in October last year after it saw potential of the product. He said they capacitated Higaonon residents to grow the Oolong plants and look after the tea farm. In return, all the earnings from the tea, which are sold at P150 per box, will go the Higaonon’s cooperative called Multi-Purpose Cooperative.
“The province is empowering them by training them as growers of the tea and we are also teaching them to manage their finances through the establishment of the cooperative,” he said.
The facility for the supposed processing of the Oolong plant was damaged after being left abandoned, but the Higaonon farmers found a way to go on with the project, by processing the plants at their barangay hall.
But Boston said this year, the province is planning to purchase machineries for fast and increase of production.
To date, around 2 to 3 kilos of Oolong tea are produced but they want to achieve P15 kilos of tea production every week.
According to Boston, health benefits of oolong tea include its ability to reduce chronic health conditions such as heart diseases, inflammatory disorders, and high cholesterol levels. It is also known to help manage weight and prevent skin disorders.
The tea is sold at Farmers’ Market, a weekly display of products in Misamis Oriental compound. Boston said Oolong tea is almost always sold-out every week.