Monday July 16, 2018

Cassava granules boost trading for ARBs, farms

AFTER two failed attempts in expanding their product line, the Callawa-Bongan Employees ARB Cooperative (Cabearbco) is hoping to nail it this time with cassava granules, which started last year by supplying B-MEG of San Miguel Corporation.

After failing with banana chips, its second venture in 2011, the coop took a three-year hiatus from incubating new business ideas and focused on the manpower services. But the feed company approached Cabearbco to get from them the cassava granules to be processed into feeds last year.

Cabearbco chairman Sotero Aspilla said they sought intervention from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Davao for some equipment boost to get things started. The coop then received P450,000 worth of granulator with conveyor through the agency's Shared Service Facility (SSF) in 2015.

The SSF projects intend to enable the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to increase their productivity, and to encourage them to “tap a better and wider market share, accelerating MSMEs competitiveness by giving them access to better technologies and more sophisticated equipment, and addressing the gaps and bottlenecks in the value chain of the primary industry clusters.”

“When the B-MEG came in, they encouraged the farmers to plant cassava because they have high requirement for feeds,” he said.

Aspilla said Cabearbco operates an eight-hectare plantation of cassava in Indangan, Buhangin District, Davao City, but it is also sourcing from other farmers the dried cassava chips to meet B-MEG’s annual requirement of 66 tons.

“We buy from other farmers because if we only get the cassava from our plantation, we will not meet the demand. We are now the assemblers and most of the farmers would sell us their dried cassava chips,” he said.

This is a far cry from just last year. In July 2015, Cabearbco only managed to make P35,000 from the 3,000 kilos of cassava granules it was able to produce. B-MEG was asking 30 tons from it, but it failed to deliver.

The coop would have earned bigger if talks between them and Lapanday Food Corporation prospered in 2010 for cassava powder, a base ingredient for glue used to assemble boxes at the firm’s box plant in Mandug.

The coop then ventured into cassava powder with the backing of Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) that provided them the equipment boost worth P845,000, awarded in two phases, which included, among others, the cassava powder grinder, hammer mill, electric dryer, and solar dryer.

This did not prosper, however, for failing to meet the company’s quality standards.

"We could have earned bigger if we were able to close the deal," he said.

He said they then experimented with banana chips to make use of the equipment provided by DOLE in 2011 and put value on the banana rejects. They, after all, came from Indangan area where big plantations of banana are.

But it closed down barely a year after it was hatched for lack of buyers and the coop found it hard to compete neck and neck with other established local banana chip makers, according to Aspilla.

“Shortly after, the banana chip venture closed down before it can even take off because we cannot compete with the big players,” he said.