Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rubber farmers eye better income

FARMERS in North Cotabato are eyeing to elevate their rubber production to the next level to respond to challenges posed by climate change, which has affected most of their cash crops.

“Rubber has the most potential in terms of elevating the farmers’ income but because of the low buying price of cup lumps, we proposed to scale up our production to processing and marketing,” said Paquito Laquihon, a rubber farmer and resident of Barangay New Panay.

He said rubber farmers are faced with the low-income return of rubber cup lumps, which are sold to traders at a lower buying price than rubber latex.

But with the recently approved enterprise to install village-level processing (VLP) facilities, rubber farmers here are optimistic of an uplift in their main livelihood.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) will fund the P14.9-million project, which will enable rubber farmers to produce and market rubber sheets and is seen to increase the income of 300 small-time rubber growers in the province.

“Due to severe El Niño this year, our production and income were also affected, and the approval of this project is very much timely for us to regain what we have lost to severe drought,” Laquihon said.

Based on the enterprise’s economic projection, rubber farmers will increase their income from P2,400 to P3,900 per month, while tappers from P1,530 to P2,160.

The project will be managed by the Muslim-Lumad-Christian Marketing Cooperative (MULCHMARCO), a tri-people farmer cooperative where Laquihon acts as general manager.

The project, which is under PRDP’s Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-Reap) component, will operate through clusters of cooperative in North Cotabato.

Each cooperative, which covers around 140 hectares of “tappable” areas of production, will be given a VLP facility with rubber sheeter and weighing scale equipment.

They will provide rubber sheets to MULCHMARCO for consolidation and marketing. Each cooperative is expected to produce a volume of 172.8 metric tons for the first year and will increase to 241.9 metric tons the following year with the proposed 20-hectare expansion of production area in each town.

“The provision of a processing facility will be a big help in the latex processing and will improve the production and quality of our product... we can definitely compete in the market and increase our income,” Pedro Nunay, president of ACRGA said.

“There is a big economic impact for the community when this enterprise kicks off which will expand to other towns in the province because there are still available, undeveloped lands for expansion of rubber production,” said Cynthia Ortega, North Cotabato OIC-Provincial Planning and Development coordinator.

Cotabato emerges as the top producer of raw rubber at 39,545 metric tons or about 38 percent of the whole production of the country.

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