The Department of Agriculture’s out-of-the-box strategy of farm clustering and consolidation arrangement is helping farmers achieve the agency’s twin objectives of increased productivity and high income, said Robert S. Buayaban, president of CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc., the region’s pilot Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation program (F2C2) farm cluster for high value crops.

“Dahil sa tulong ng Department of Agriculture, nagkaroon po tayo ng consolidation area. Napagaan po ng F2C2 ‘yung hanap-buhay ng mga farmers natin. Sa kabila ng sobrang kabigatan na dinadaanan ng mga farmers, inaalalayan po nila tayo mula sa teknikal hanggang sa mga inputs at ngayon naman po ay sa marketing (With the help of the Department of Agriculture, we were able to establish our own consolidation area. The F2C2 program has made work easier for farmers like us. Despite the challenges that we are facing, they provided us with technical assistance, inputs, and now, marketing support),” Buayaban said during the Visit and Orientation at Agri-Village and Trading Post of CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc. on April 11, 2022 in Brgy. Sigamot, Libmanan, Camarines Sur. The activity marks the opening of the High Value Crops Week (HVC) 2022 with the theme “Farm Diversification With High Value Crops: Key to Recovery and Sustained Growth.”

The development of the Agri-Village and Trading Post in Libmanan, Camarines Sur was initiated by the 17 primary organizations composed of 538 farmers from Cabusao, Libmanan, Lupi and Sipocot, Camarines Sur. After series of consultation and meetings, the farm cluster agreed to construct the structure through “rabus,” a community activity similar to the bayanihan system. They also agreed to provide financial contribution to build the said structure. Buayaban shared that since the soft opening of its Agri-Village and Trading Post in March 21, 2022 to April 9, 2022 the organization has generated a total sales worth P1.80 million from assorted fruits and vegetables delivered by the farm cluster members. These products were sold to local buyers from Camarines Norte, Sariaya, Quezon, Naga City and Libmanan.

“Ito po ay katuparan ng pangarap natin. Akala natin noon ay hanggang pangarap na lang… Ito na po ‘yun. Dati nahihirapan po kami sa produkto namin, sa benta namin. Kung minsan po, ‘yung mga traders lang po ang nagdi-dictate sa amin. Ngayon po na mayroon na tayong consolidation area, napakadali na po sa amin at ‘yung mga kapwa farmers po namin, sila na po ang nagdadala dito para dito na po ang transaction ng ating mga traders (This is the fulfilment of our dream. We used to think that this would just remain as a dream. But here it is. Previously, we struggle in gaining profits from selling our products. Sometimes, only the traders are dictating to this. Now that we have our own consolidation area, it’s easier for us and to our fellow farmers to deliver their products and transact with traders),” he added.

According to DA-Bicol Field Operations Divisions Chief and Regional HVCDP Coordinator Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez, CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc.’s success story through the F2C2 program is a source of inspiration. She acknowledged the presence of the “perfect formula” during the activity namely, the government headed by DA-Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla, the private sector represented by Kristan Carl E. Malazarte, Vice President for Membership of the Camarines Sur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (CSCCI), and the farmers composed of the CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc.

Rodriguez commended the farm cluster for its rapid progress since it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December 2020. “Pag-form ng federation hanggang sa production at ngayon na may marketing na… Halos nakumpleto na natin ang value chain. Kamo po ang inspirasyon mi (From organizing the federation to production and now, the marketing aspect. We have almost completed the value chain. You are our inspiration),” she said.

Tornilla, for his part, reminded the organization that its success story should not end in farm clustering. “Kita ang nagco-compose kan value chain. One of the most important sectors in the value chain is the production–farmers. But the farmers alone, dae man siya ma-perform sa entire chain kun mayo ning suporta hale sa ibang sektor (We compose the value chain. One of the most important sectors in the value chain is the production—the farmers. But the entire chain cannot perform in the entire chain without the support from other sectors),” he said. He encouraged the farmer-members of the CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc. to maximize the input supply and services offered by the DA HVCDP, the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), and the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) through its Katuwang sa Diwa at Gawa para sa Masanang Ani at Mataas na Kita (Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita) program. He also thanked the farmers for their sustained commitment to ensure the country’s food security amid the impact of the pandemic, infectious diseases, typhoons, and war to the agriculture sector.

Meanwhile, Malazarte shared an overview of the MuraMart hyperlocal marketplace mobile app developed by the (CSCCI) and cited the prospects of the organization’s partnership with them using the digital platform. Maria Christina F. Campita, Supervising Agriculturist of DA-Bicol AMAD discussed the agribusiness development services offered by their office such as information on agribusiness opportunities, trainings and advisory services online, loan access, and product and enterprise registration assistance. ACPC Project Assistant IV Michael Jordan O. Roquid oriented the participants about the agri-fishery credit programs that the CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc. farmer-members may avail.

Moreover, the Municipal HVCDP Coordinators of Libmanan, Lupi, and Sipocot presented their accomplishment report as well as the production, processing, and marketing activities of CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc. farmer associations in their respective municipalities.

A ceremonial planting of calamansi and vegetable seedlings at the two-hectare Agri-Village and Trading Post of the CLLS Federation of High Value Crops Growers Inc. was conducted to cap the activity.

Buayaban expressed his gratitude to the DA-Bicol and his farm cluster’s partners saying “Maraming salamat po sa lahat ng bumubuo ng Department of Agriculture at sa lahat ng mga farmers na tumutulong para maging maganda ang resulta ng proyektong ito. Malaki po ang aking paniniwala na dahil nandyan po kayo na laging sumusuporta sa amin, mas yayabong pa po ito at mapapatunayan po natin ‘yung masagang ani at mataas na kita ng ating mga farmers (Thank you very much to the Management and staff of the Department of Agriculture and to all the farmers who are helping us ensure the positive result of this project. I firmly believe that with your support, our farm cluster will grow and we will be able to prove farmers’ increased productivity and high income).” (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V with reports from Dr. Irma D. Intia, LGU-Libmanan and Angelica Blanco, DA RFO V ORED)Photo Credits: Hermito Antonio T. Privaldos and Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V