As the flagship commodity of Bicol and a major crop of Sorsogon, pili (Canarium ovatum), also known as the tree of hope, offers bright prospects for over 1,526 pili farmers and processors as the Department of Agriculture Philippine Rural Development Project recently turned over its biggest enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject in the region to three cooperatives namely the Gubat St. Anthony Cooperative (GSAC), Barcelona Development Cooperative (BADECO) and Sorsogon Pili Producers Cooperative (SPPC) that will operate the cluster-based Sorsogon Pili Enterprise in Gubat, Barcelona and Irosin, this province.

According to PRDP-Bicol Deputy Project Director and I-REAP Component Head Adelina A. Losa, the P23.33 million-worth Sorsogon Enterprise is projected to contribute largely to the Pili Roadmap crafted by the Provincial Local Government Unit, private sector and the academe with the vision of advancing the Province of Sorsogon as the Pili Capital of the Philippines. Thus, she encouraged the GSAC, BADECO and SPPC members to focus on product development using the PRDP-funded warehouses, processing and buying center. She underscored Sorsogon’s potential in pili processing aside from merely being the source of raw materials of pili being processed and packaged in Albay and Camarines Sur.

Isidro G. Gracilla, a pili farmer-member of the SPPC, considers having the Processing and Buying Station as a major progress. He recounted the struggles of most pili farmers especially during the pandemic saying “Yung hina-harvest ko na pili sa bundok binibenta ko sa dealer primero P7 per kilo (yung may balat pa)… Ngayon ang bentahan namin ng pili, P8 na lang ang kilo kasi walang buyer, stop buying daw… Dahil walang buyer, mura ang pili nabubulok lang (ang mga pili), walang bumibili, marami ang product. Ginagawa na lang naming pang-konsumo na kendi o binibenta sa kapit-bahay para mapakinabangan.” With the PRDP-funded facility, Gracilla hopes to regain his previous income of P800 to P4,000 per cropping season from his one-hectare pili farm.

“Unang-una dahil mayroon kaming kooperatiba, double purpose na (po ito)… Dahil sa binenta ko na pili, may incentive pa ako. Makakabigay pa kami ng labor sa mga members,” he added. The Sorsogon Pili Enterprise to be managed and operated by the GSAC as the lead proponent group aims to establish a sustainable pili industry to alleviate pili farmers’ quality of lives by generating jobs and providing additional income to pili farmers and microprocessors. As a cluster group, BADECO will procure high quality pili drupe and pili nuts to support GSAC and SPPC’s pili processing activity. Meanwhile, SPPC will be in charge of ensuring the market for GSAC and BADECO’s pili by-products.

“I think this is very timely today because most of the pili producers and pili farmers have lost jobs, have less income when it comes to pili production. Some of them, those very small pili farmers were not able to create income with their small business. This is very timely because we can help them again start or continue their pili business. But this is not only on the small business on pili but we are looking forward into the bigger plans for the pili industry in Sorsogon,” Nonito Collingwood, Chief Executive Officer of GSAC, said.

“Nag-umpisa kaming bumili ng pili nung nagstop buying ang mga traders. Pero hindi pa masyadong marami kasi ang problema namin is yung warehouse. Pero ngayon na existing na yung warehouse namin makakapagventure talaga kami, magfu-full blast kami sa operation para matulungan namin yung mga members namin na pili farmers. Or kahit yung iba na hindi pa member, iencourage namin na maging member ng kooperatiba para magbenepisyo dito sa programa,” BADECO Manager Concepcion Escanilla said.

Provincial Board Member Arze Glipo, who concurrently serves as the Chairperson of the Committee on Food Security, Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform, conveyed Governor Francis Joseph Escudero’s gratitude to the PRDP and pili stakeholders’ support to the accomplishment of the Pili Road Map. She added that with assistance from other agencies, the PRDP-funded Sorsogon Pili Enterprise will help expand production, increase productivity, and strengthen the market linkaging for the province’s pili products. She also announced that the PLGU has already approved the release of additional operating capital worth P100,000 for the SPPC.

“The intention of this project is to help these small actors gain more share from the pili industry,” she said.

Aside from the warehouses, processing centers and buying station, PRDP’s interventions for the Sorsogon Pili Enterprise include a close type hauling truck, two open type hauling trucks, a motorcycle, mechanical dryer, and oven with four-layered baking chamber.

Currently, the proponent groups are working on the documentary requirements to make the enterprise Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD)-compliant so they could market their products both locally and internationally.

Sorsogon Pili Enterprise, which was completed on November 15, 2020 is projected to increase pili farmer-members’ annual income by at least 5 percent, raise the value of the marketed and distributed demand-driven pili products and other by-products by at least 7 percent annually, and promote sustainable pili production by encouraging farmers to propagate high quality stocks for the next five years. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)