(News Feature)In Negros Oriental, rice mill from DOLE helps organic farmers brand own rice produce, cut milling cost

December 23, 2015 6:25 am 

MANILA, Dec. 22 — After waiting for three to four months of rice cultivation, the harder work of 59-year old Romeo Tagbar begins. It’s harvest time.

Tagbar, a rice farmer of Jugno, Amlan, Negros Oriental, looks forward to every harvest and considers it a reward for his hard work. However, harvest time is also a time when the burden of looking for money for costly rice hauling and milling services weighs upon him. It is because his farm is distant and away from the rice mill.

There were times when Tagbar considered selling hogs raised by the family to pay the cost of rice milling. Apart from the cost, he said, he had also to travel more than 80 kilometers to the nearest rice mill, which is in Tanjay City.

For 45 sacks of rice, he added, he needed to shell out about Php 4,500 for transportation alone. “This is very costly, even extravagant,” said the father of six children.

Tagbar explained that the cost of hauling and milling his own rice is considerable. What is left in his pocket after every rice season is barely enough for the family.

“And the cycle continued for many years,” he lamented.

Actually, Tagbar’s story also mirrored the plight of other destitute farmers in Barangay Jugno. But things changed completely after the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had extended them livelihood assistance they could not forget: their own rice mill.

They also could not forget no less than Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz visited them last month to officially turnover to the Amlan LGU Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative (ALCOMCO) a complete set of rice milling equipment worth Php 645,000.

ALCOMCO, to which Tagbar and his fellow farmers in the barangay belong, is set to operate the DOLE-awarded rice mill this month. “Around 185 members of the cooperative, including Tagbar, will benefit from the livelihood,” said Baldoz, who was accompanied during the visit by DOLE Regional Office 7 Director Exequiel Sarcauga. “With the rice mill, our members are relieved. Certainly, we will save a lot of money and increase our incomes,” Tagbar said. Also, Tagbar, who is President of the Jugno Irrigators Association, was ecstatic about the livelihood assistance.

“Katumanan sa among damgo ang pagkahimugso sa ALCOMCO Rice Mill sa among tugkaran. Ang hilabihan kadako nga gasto sa pamasahe sa pagpa galing didto sa Tanjay makabuslot sa bulsa kanamong mga gagmay ug kabos nga mga mag-uuma,” said Tabar in the local language.

He said that aside from his fellow farmers, farmers of Jugno’s neighboring barangay of Bio-os will also benefit from the rice mill. He thanked Secretary Baldoz for the DOLE support and for personally visiting their place.

Amlan, generally an agricultural town, has about 41.8 percent of its 6,604 hectares of total land area devoted to agriculture.

Farmer Tagbar explained that as rice farmers, they are burdened by the heavy cost of rice cultivation right from the start of the rice farming season—from paddy preparation to tillage to purchase of rice seedlings and fertilizers. “Usually, Amlan farmers are forced to run to rice mill operators and traders in Azagra in Tanjay City to borrow money,” he explained.

In exchange, he added, the farmers would sell their harvest to Tanjay City and wholesalers at a much lower price, with their produce being branded as Azagra Rice, instead of Amlan Rice.

“Ang among bugas humay kasagaran gibaligya namu sa mga mangumprahay (rice traders) sa Azagra ug magbilin lang mi ug among kunsumo mao nga kining humay sa among lungsod wala kaau mailhi nga Amlan Rice tungod kay ang mapatik (mark) mao man ang Tanjay Rice tungod sa paagi sa among pagbaligya,” revealed Tagbar.

The operation of the ALCOMCO Rice Mill is expected to usher in the rise of Amlan Rice, a brand of the town's very own produce and pride that will eventually help establish its name and competitiveness in the market.

In 2004, the Department of Agriculture and the Provincial Agriculture Office of the Province of Negros Oriental introduced rice, corn, and root crops organic farming in Amlan, making farmers in the town also producers of organic fertilizer. ALCOMCO, said Tagbar, has adopted the technology, adding that the cooperative had already started selling organic rice at Php 250 for every 5 kilos.vWith a start-up capital of only Php 70,0000 in 2008, ALCOMCO now has Php 3, 519,066.65 in total assets. Its array of services includes lending, arrastre, and mooring. “Soon, we will also be producing and selling Amlan-branded organic fertilizer,” he added.

Tagbar also shared that ALCOMCO is sharing its blessings, doing community services like tree planting. Recently, ALCOMCO was given a free seminar on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) by the DOLE-Negros Oriental Field Office (NOFO).

“The aim of the seminar was to equip coop members with necessary knowledge and skills that will help guarantee their safety and health,” said DOLE-NOFO Chief Marites G. Mercado.

Baldoz, during her visit, particularly wanted ALCOMCO to ensure the coop members undergo the necessary safety and health orientation prior to the rice mill operations.

“I want you to appreciate and practice the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace, an important requirement to counter the risks and hazards at work now that you will be producing your branded Amlan rice,”she finally said.(PNA)

RMA/EBP

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