Sweetsuccess of Sweetpotato Farmers in Bataan

Date Published: January 21, 2024

More than three decades ago, a group of farmers from the southern Luzon area of the Bicol Region migrated to the highlands of Bagac, Bataan. They would then organize themselves as the “Samahan ng mga Bicolano sa Bagac”.

With the assistance of a non-government organization, they registered with the Cooperative Development Authority in 1993 under the name “Binukawan Bicol Marketing Cooperative” (BBMC), situated in Brgy. Binukawan where they have thrived by planting root crops such as cassava and sweetpotato.

BBMC Business Manager Patricio Berber recalled the time that they relied on the limited farming practices passed on from generation to generation with limited access to new knowledge in growing high quality sweetpotatoes. He also shared that they lacked resources to grow sweetpotato clean planting paterials (CPM) resulting in various diseases infesting their crops and decreasing their yield and income.

“Before PRDP came, our sweetpotato farmers would only depend on their own or on nearby farms to grow planting materials. We’d often have to buy them from far places at a higher price without the assurance of its quality,” Berber said.

In December 2019, the Department of Agriculture – Philippine Rural Development Project gave the greenlight for BBMC’s proposal of a sweetpotato production and marketing enterprise subproject with a total cost of P13.33 million. It includes a planting nursery, a consolidation facility, farm machineries, trading capital, and a thousand pieces of mother plants.

Before their operations launched in January 2022, BBMC was given capacity development trainings on modern techniques of growing sweetpotato CPMs with the help of the Tarlac Agricultural University. This paved the way for BBMC members to grow high quality CPMs and increase their income by selling and using it themselves on their own farms.

“Since we started the enterprise until now, we’ve had a steady supply of CPMs. Most of all, we have also grown our income from the sweepotatoes because of the CPMs from the cooperative,” Berber added.

In 2022, BBMC member and farmer Roman Casino planted sweetpotatoes in a hectare of his land using the CPMs from the cooperative through the subproject and another hectare using planting materials that he grew himself. Come harvest time, he would find himself astonished with the outcome.

With the same production cost for both hectares amounting to P95,000, he was able to yield 95 sacks of harvest worth P162,450 from the cooperative’s CPM while he was only able to yield 55 sacks worth P94,050 from the planting materials he grew himself. This cemented his reliance on the benefits of CPMs in growing his income from sweetpotatoes.

“I want to share my experience to my fellow farmers. From this year onwards, I will surely continue to plant using the cooperative’s CPM,” Casino said.

However, the first year of the enterprise faced challenges that involved the marketing of their CPMs. They only had one variety of CPM, super beauro, whereas a lot of their target market prefer other varieties such as inube, kinerot, and Taiwan. Furthermore, target markets were looking for concrete proofs of the advantages the BBMC’s CPM.

In response to these challenges, BBMC included kinerot in its line of CPM products in its second year of operations and shall also add more varieties in its third year. An information drive is also being conducted by presenting their practices and using the testimonials of their members on growing and using the cooperative’s CPM.

BBMC Chairman Carlito Cruz pledged the cooperative’s maximum effort in ensuring the stable supply of CPMs to cater the needs of sweetpotato farmers. He also bared their intent to expand their market from the municipalities of Bataan to the nearby provinces such as Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac and the National Capital Region. 

“The cooperative will encourage more members to be sweetpotato CPM growers by increasing the price of CPM and continue providing necessary technical and financial assistance to our members,” Cruz said.

With the continued support from the DA-PRDP through the I-REAP component, in partnership with the local government of Bataan, BBMC is steering towards its goal to help as much sweepotato farmers as possible by being a source of superior CPMs in the region. (Ram Bill Bautista, RPCO 3 InfoACE)


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