Roots of change: SRT La Trinidad co-op’s potato tuberlet triumph

Date Published: February 25, 2024

Potato farmers like Johndon Langgawit from Buguias, Benguet have a common, recurring problem: limited access to quality potato planting materials.

“Awan ti usto nga pangalaan mi ti similya ti patatas ta mostly ket kurang pay ket nu mabitin, agmula kamin ti sabali [there are no definite sources of good potato planting materials, and if there are, it is not enough, so we would plant other crops instead],” said Langgawit.

Compelled by scarcity of quality potato seeds in the province, farmers would resort to buying from unreliable sources or replanting tubers from their harvest, often resulting in reduced production and higher losses. They also tried planting imported seeds but it was not productive. 

However, this would all change when they learned about a cooperative in La Trinidad selling generation zero potato tubers. Johndon’s mother was among the first who immediately placed an order. 

“Ada nangkontak kini mother idi nga ada kanu lako da nga tubers ket baka kayat mi ipadas ket idi inpadas mi, nakita mi nga dakel ti nag deperensyaan na ta haan nga gumedey nga dagus, umabot pay inggana mayka upat nga mula [someone reached out to my mother some time ago about a certain cooperative selling potato tubers and when we planted the seeds we bought from them, we noticed a significant improvement in terms of quality and yield],” said Langgawit.

After witnessing a substantial improvement in their yield, the Langgawit family has since consistently sourced their potato planting materials from the SRT La Trinidad Cooperative of Benguet.

Established in 2005, the cooperative started trading agricultural supplies until they gradually expanded their operations to the production of high-value seedlings.

“We didn’t have resources then, so we only operated within our financial capacity until we partnered with the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) who provided us with financial assistance through a loan. That was how we were able to establish our first ever greenhouse,” Freddie Langpoen, SRT La Trinidad Cooperative Manager, shared.

In 2020, they proposed a subproject under the Department of Agriculture – Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) to fill in the gap in the supply of clean and quality potato planting materials for potato farmers in the province.

The cooperative’s Potato Tuberlets Production and Marketing enterprise worth PhP12.28 million was formally turned over in January 2022. It comprised of a greenhouse facility, several farm equipment and supplies, a delivery truck, and a working capital. 

When they started selling potato tuberlets, they would organize meetings with potato farmers and disseminate Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials to promote their products to more farmers.

“Farmers beyond La Trinidad may not be aware of our existence and so we feared that our efforts might go to waste. Thankfully, a number of farmers like the Langgawit family heard about us and purchased potato tuberlets. This eventually led to more memberships, higher revenues, and most importantly, more beneficiaries among the farming community,” Langpaoen said.

Since then, SRT La Trinidad Cooperative of Benguet has consistently run its enterprise with the main goal of ensuring the continuous production of high-quality potato planting materials and making it accessible to farmers. As of December 31, 2023, the cooperative earned a total of PhP1.65 million gross sales since they started their operations in January 2022. 

Realizing kung gaano nakakatulong ito, we do not have any intention to stop but to expand instead. Orders keep piling up and there is really a need to expand so that we’d be able to cater more farmers,” Langpaoen said.

To further support their enterprise, they also partnered with Benguet State University-Northern Philippine Root Crops Research Training Center (BSU-NPRCRTC) for a technology transfer project on the propagation of potato planting materials in the form of stem cuttings.

The story of SRT La Trinidad Cooperative of Benguet shows a notable journey in transforming the landscape of potato farming. From addressing the persistent challenge of obtaining quality planting materials to implementing a successful enterprise subproject, the cooperative has not only improved yields for individual farmers but has also become a catalyst for positive change in the broader agricultural community. 

As they continue to grow, SRT La Trinidad Cooperative stands as an inspiration, encouraging other farmers’ cooperatives to embrace innovative initiatives, ultimately fostering sustainable agriculture and securing a brighter future for potato cultivation in Benguet.// Elvy T. Estacio (DA-PRDP RPCO-CAR Writer)

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