The Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program team engaged about 18 farmers cooperative and associations (FCAs) and seven LGU partners during the 2nd Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program National Cluster Summit held in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on May 27 to 31, 2024.

This is part of the DA Bicol’s efforts to strengthen the agency’s cooperation and linkage with its farm clusters and partner LGUs in fostering the integration, consolidation and mainstreaming of clustering and consolidation into the DA’s operating units, banner programs, regional field office, as well as agriculture and fisheries stakeholders. According to DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla, the National Cluster Summit was intended to provide the participants with deeper understanding on the importance of the clustering and consolidation approach in agriculture and fisheries. It also aimed to examine the DA Operating Units’ implementation of the F2C2 approach.

In his message, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director at the Philippines Country Office Southeast Asia Department Pavit Ramachandran said that the 2nd F2C2 Program National Cluster Summit is a testament to partnership and collaboration—”the spirit that need to be unleashed to ensure that the Philippines can be more productive and competitive in the agriculture sector.” He shared the ADB’s role in the F2C2 initiative particularly the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient (JFPR) Asia and the Pacific assistance, which supports the establishment of rice-based cluster farming models through pilot testing in two locations each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“We really hope that the lessons learned from these pilots will provide regional benchmarks and will give useful guidance for the F2C2 program,” he said.

Among the topics discussed during the five-day F2C2 National Cluster Summit were the situationer and updates on the F2C2 Program, opportunities for the F2C2 clusters, Agri-Clusters Consolidation and Cooperation Project, ADB-F2C2 Technical Assistance Project, and Benchmarking South Korea’s Saemaul Undong for the Philippine Community-Driven Development Through Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation. The participants were also oriented on the Farmers Entrepreneurship Program and Sharing of the Implementation of Agro-Enterprise Clustering Approach, Market Opportunities for the F2C2 Clusters, Digitalization of the Agri-Supply Chain, and How Drones Will Change the Rice Farming.

The participants were also given the opportunity to share their experiences in adopting clustering and consolidation approach, build networks and formulate action points to adopt and sustain clustering and consolidation in agriculture and fisheries. An exhibit featuring the products of F2C2 beneficiaries was also conducted as part of the event. Gubat St. Anthony Cooperative (GSAC) sold a total of P41,380-worth of pili and pili-based products and confectionery during the three-day exhibit. Moreover, Bicol Federation of Dairy Cooperative Plant Manager Robin O. Tabal and Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneur Multipurpose Cooperative Secretary Trisha Ann P. Callo, Bicol’s representatives to the Binibini at Ginoong F2C2 2024 won the Best in Regional Attire and bagged the title Ginoong F2C2 2024 and 1st Runner Up Bb. F2C2 2024, respectively during the Socials Night.

Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Atty. Alvin John Balagbag, DA F2C2 Program Director Engr. Ricardo Oñate Jr., and DA MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Atty. Christopher R. Bañas graced the occasion.

“Walang ibang paraan para tayo makapag-produce ng marami ng ating agricultural products kung hindi tayo magkakaisa… Kung watak-watak ‘yung mga magsasaka, ‘yung mga fishermen, maliit lang ‘yung mapo-produce natin pero sa initiative na ito, kung magsasama-sama tayo, sa suporta ng gobyerno at ng private sector, mas makakapag-produce tayo ng mas madami… Nagpapasalamat po kami sa F2C2 kasi ‘yung programang ito specifically addresses that problem. Kailangan nating mag-cluster. We should have consolidation of owners and not consolidation of ownership. Kailangan, ‘yung intervention ng gobyerno ay mas mapapadali at mas magkakaroon ng pakinabang kung magsasama-sama ‘yung mga magsasaka kasi mas maraming interventions ‘yung maibibigay po ng DA, mas malaking makinarya, mas maraming pataba, abono para sainyo, sa mga magsasaka,” Atty. Balagbag said.

DA Bicol Regional Technical Director for Operations Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, Farmer Field Operations Division Chief Maria Daisy G. Geolin, who represented Farmer Regional Executive Director Bernadette B. De Los Santos, DA Bicol F2C2 Regional Focal Person Marilene Dimaculangan, and DA Bicol F2C2 Technical Working Group staff also attended the activity.

The event concluded with the turnover ceremony of the DA F2C2 flag to DA Bicol as the next host region. Director Tornilla personally accepted the assignment saying “Hosting the next F2C2 cluster next year is a welcome challenge because this will also be an opportunity for our FCAs to showcase their products and be introduced to prospective alliance from all over the country.”

DA Bicol currently has 250 FCA clusters with 34,306 members cultivating a total area of 29,448.37 hectares. Of these FCA clusters, 25 are engaged in rice farming, 62 grow corn and cassava, 32 are involved in HVCDP farming, and 13 in livestock farming. The F2C2 Program is one of the DA’s strategies to promote the interest of and uplift the condition of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk by encouraging FCAs to adopt clustering and consolidation of their activities as well as pooling of their assets, labor, and resources as community business enterprises. This is in order to achieve economies of scale, establish stronger market linkages, and increase the overall productivity and income of farmers and fishers in the country. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V with reports from Karren A. Belen, DA RFO V F2C2)

Photo Credits: DA RFO V F2C2 and DA MIMAROPA