MAGARAO, CAMARINES SUR   – While many sectors suffered huge losses from this novel coronavirus pandemic, the rice milling business of one of the recipients of the Department of Agriculture’s Rice Processing Centers (RPCs) is flourishing.

The rice milling facility in barangay Casuray which is equipped with RPC 1, RPC 2, two flatbed dryers and MPDP is owned by the Magarao Multi-purpose Cooperative which has 542 members. Some 176 members are rice farmers cultivating an average of 1 hectare area with a total aggregate area of 354 hectares.

Elmer Basbas, Manager of the coop said that the coop has been into palay milling and trading since the RPC 2 has been awarded to them in 2015.

During the onset of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, there was a surge of orders for well milled rice coming from the Local Government Units for their relief asssistance to their constituents during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). In fact, these LGUs purchased a total of 1,880 bags amounting to P2,816,250.00 from the Magarao MPC in the months of March and April 2020.

The LGU Magarao purchased 1,495 bags and LGU Calabanga procured 200 bags from the coop. The barangay Council of San Juan, Magarao bought 40 bags; Bgy. San Isidro – 100 bags; Barangay Bell 40 bags.

It was fortunate that the ECQ coincided with the peak of palay harvest season. Harvesting was easier with the use of the coop’s rice combine harvester (DC 60) and with the farm consolidation

Municipal Agriculturist Anicia Mancita said that in 2018, the LGU clustered most of the 1,944 hectares irrigated and rainfed areas into 5 major rice clusters namely: Centro-Magarao Irrigators Association (IA); Sta. Lucia Farmers Association; Golden Bell Farmers Association; Sta Rosa IA; and Franc Bel-Cas IA. These clusters  consisted of at least 10 hectares of contiguous rice lands. The Magarao MPC was included in the Centro-Magarao IA cluster.

These rice clusters benefitted from trainings, equipment and farm machineries both from LGU and DA regional office.

Through farm clustering or consolidation, more parcels of rice areas were reached by irrigation water. As a result, land owners rarely sell their land but instead cultivate them or expand their rice production areas. Crop productivity is also improved with the application of synchronous planting and use of high yielding varieties and good agricultural practices. Due to farm consolidation, land preparation and harvesting time were also shortened as the 4 wheel drive tractor and combine harvester of the coop do not have to travel to numerous and distant rice areas. Picking up of harvested palay was also very easy on the part of the coop as the rice areas are adjacent.

In their 2019 report to the Cooperative Development Authority, Manager Basbas cited that the coop purchased 19,986 bags of fresh palay from the farmer members amounting to P16,127,349. They also bought 115 bags of dried palay which amounted to P104,223.40.

In 2019 also, the coop milled a total of 22,760 bags, 6,200 of which were under contract with NFA.

From January to May 2020, the coop purchased 10,569 bags of fresh palay at prices which are higher than the prevailing price in the locality. Presently, the coop buys fresh palay at P15.20 per kilo.

Due to the problems on mobility caused by the pandemic, farmer members need not go to the coop’s milling area as the coop’s hauling trucks pick up the harvested palay at the farmer’s field. The coop also provides the sacks equivalent to the number of bags of palay harvested.

Meanwhile, a total of 13,356 bags of palay, including 5,000 bags from NFA, were milled from January to May 2020. Their milling operation which used to last until 9:00PM was shortened to 8:00AM to 7:00PM due to the curfew in the area.

A tangible evidence of their booming milling business is the mountain of rice hulls that are piled at the back of the Rice Processing Center building. These rice hulls are being packed in sacks and sold at private compradas at P2.50/kilo.   

The other income earner for the coop are the Rice Combine Harvester (DC 60) which gave the coop an income of  P295,167.18 in 2019 as farmer members are paying in kind (1 bag for every 10 bags harvested palay). The Mini 4 wheel drive tractor (L3608) earned P310,478.36 also in 2019.

Another enterprise of the coop is palay drying using the three flatbed dryers, a wide multi-purpose drying pavement and 3 units recirculating dryers. A total of 19,840 bags of fresh palay were dried in 2019 which gave the coop P15,617.00 earnings.

As of November 2019, the Magarao MPC has an asset of P47.6M with a loan portfolio of P8.4M and net surplus of P628,742.00

As the coop’s rice trading business flourishes, its success also trickled down to its members who are the priority in the services of the coop’s production loans and other benefits, farm machineries and postharvest facilities.  These are indeed great strides in delivering inclusive growth in the countryside. (Lovella P. Guarin/photo credit: Eduardo Collantes, Jr. RAFIS 5)