Cacao Enterprise Expands Maragusan Coop Operations
Every quality tablea produced by the Maragusan Multipurpose Cooperative (MAMPCO) carries with it a beautiful story of hard work and success.
MAMPCO, which started as a small cooperative with only a few members 50 years ago, has now grown to an organization with almost 4000 members.
In 2010, they decided to get into the production and marketing of cacao fermented beans with a dream of expanding into tablea production to help more cacao farmers achieve a stable source of income.
To make this dream a reality, MAMPCO applied for enterprise development support from the Department of Agriculture Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) provided MAMPCO through the PhP2.51 million “Tablea Processing and Marketing Enterprise” subproject.
The interventions provided by PRDP to MAMPCO included one unit tablea processing building, roaster, cracker, grinder, stainless molding equipment, chiller, vacuum sealer, air conditioning unit, and other inputs for tablea processing.
Almost three years since the completion of the subproject, the beneficiaries from MAMPCO said that the tablea processing center has made a big impact to their cooperative when it comes to value adding of cacao beans, and generating additional income for their farmer members.
According to MAMPCO manager Armando Escuadro, their cacao farm expanded after PRDP provided their processing building and equipment followed by an increase in the number of their farmer members.
“We started with only 70 farmer-members with a production area of around 70 hectares dedicated to cacao,” said Escuadro. “But with the help of PRDP our production area has expanded to 156 hectares and the number of our cacao farmers has doubled.”
MAMPCO is currently producing around 3,800 kilograms of fermented cacao beans per month. Their institutional buyer, Kennemer Foods International Inc., gets 70% of their produce while the remaining 30% goes to their tablea processing. From this they can make an average of 800kgs of chocolate tablets per month.
In a day, they can make two batches of 222 packs of tablea with each pack containing 100 grams. This is the result of the processing equipment that helped them fast track their processing and ensure a good quality tablea in the end.
Through PRDP, other agencies were also able to provide support to MAMPCO expanding their market and allowing them to tie-up with their institutional buyers. Some of these agencies and institutions were Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Provincial Agriculture Office (PAGRO)of Davao de Oro, Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao (CIDAMI), and more recently, the Foundation for Sustainable Society, Inc. which will partner with them for their planned expansion of their production area to another 100 hectares including establishment of agri-tourism and farm resort.
Engrasio Detomal Jr, one of the farmer members of MAMPCO, said that the buying price for cacao really increased and many farmers were motivated to go back into farming because MAMPCO acted as a sure buyer of cacao wet beans.
“When I started farming, the price of wet beans was at P25 to 28 per kilo. But now we can sell it at P32 to 35 pesos. In fact, many farmers here are working again in their cacao farms because they know that we have MAMPCO as a sure buyer of our beans, and they give us a good price,” said Detomal.
This enterprise subproject also generated additional jobs to some of the unemployed family members of some of the cooperative members.
A year after she was hired, tablea processor Rose Villa Amores has already mastered the steps in processing the cacao beans into finely ground tableya, “With my income here, I am able to support our family’s daily consumption and send my children to school,” Amores said.
MAMPCO continued its operation amidst the pandemic and despite the disruption and challenges they encountered, they were still able to secure their Certificate of Product Registration and passed the requirement of the Food and Drug Administration.
To date, they are already distributing their tablea nationwide through local couriers at a cash-on-delivery basis.
MAMPCO is now planning to release new products within the year such as cacao nibs, chocolate, and cocoa powder. They are also crafting new proposals under the additional financing 2 (AF-2) of PRDP which would include a delivery van, additional equipment, refinery grinder, and a printing machine to customize their label.
As MAMPCO committed to sustain the project and to continually help their members, especially their cacao farmers, they decided to come up with an idea of taking over the farm management of cacao farms whose owners decided to discontinue farming or are having a hard time managing their farm areas.
The strategy is to rent the farm to make use of it while introducing a diversified farming system and provide 3-in-1 support which include financial, technical, and marketing assistance in order to sustain the farm. Upon the expiration of the rental, they will turn-over the farm back to the owner already fully developed.
The cooperative also hired additional production technicians to supervise their farmers in increasing their harvest and to reach their target of P2000 kilograms of dried beans per hectare. (Joy M. Montecalvo, PSO Min)