The Camarines Norte Queen Pineapple Trading and Processing Project in Brgy. Malasugui Labo, Camarines Norte was already producing and packaging 4,500 boxes of pineapple juice and expanding its market to 40 schools outside the province before COVID-19 happened. However, this Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP)-funded enterprise’s operation faced a major setback when the Luzonwide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ) protocols were imposed.

“Comes ECQ and GCQ lahat sarado sa enterprise,” Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LPMPC) General Manager Mario Espeso said in a phone interview.

Nevertheless, this did not deter the LPMPC from doing business especially that its employees are relying on their jobs to sustain their livelihood during the pandemic. According to Espeso, his employees engaged in online marketing by banking on articles supporting claims that pineapple is rich in nutrients that can help fight COVID-19.

“So yung ibang malapit lang na-process namin at nakapagbenta naman yung mga empleyado,” Espeso said. However, he admitted that travel restrictions took a toll on the enterprise’s operations particularly in buying raw materials from pineapple farmers because they had to limit their production since market was also confined within the province. To give them an alternative source of income, the cooperative linked them to local government units (LGUs) which bought their produce as part of their relief packages. LPMPC also revived its Decorticated Fiber Project which provided jobs to six decorticating machine operators and 30 laborers. The cooperative bought decorticated pineapple fiber at P360 per kilogram while laborers get P125 for each kilogram of harvested pineapple leaves. Espeso also mentioned that about 640 LPMPC farmer-members received food packs from the cooperative.

Yet, Espeso and the LPMPC management knew that more strategic efforts were needed to keep the enterprise afloat amid the looming economic crisis. He thus led the updating of their business continuity plan while the ECQ was enforced. A training on Business Continuity and Disaster Resiliency is part of the PRDP’s enterprise development (I-REAP) package. A business continuity plan is a collection of methods, tactics, and supporting procedures designed to guide the continuity or timely recovery of business operations following the occurrence of an unplanned interruption of essential business functions. It enables a business organization to make the right decisions, reduce downtime and minimize financial loss. It contains information about the business’ operations including its activities, processes and procedures, list of employees including their contact details and information, list of customers, suppliers and vendors, finances, as well as list of assets, equipment and machinery.

As part of its business continuity plan after the ECQ, LPMPC adopted alternative mode of work arrangement and followed standard health protocols. Only 50 percent of its workforce were required to report to its four branches. The cooperative also reduced its work days and scheduled a weekly meeting of all head of offices every Saturday to monitor the progress of its operation.

“Kasi yung mga trainings namin karamihan sa PRDP ay yung sa governance, yung kahit may mga lockdown, may mga ganitong mga events bale nagagawa pa rin namin yung constant communication, yung supervision andoon pa rin yung hierarchy of leadership kasi mayroon namang mga channels para kami ay makapag-usap at makapag-meeting katulad ng Zoom, Skype. Kasi kung hindi gagawin, kung maghihintay ng isang buwan, ay baka magmalay tayo nasa kangkungan na tayo,” Espeso explained.

He added that having a business continuity plan also benefits the cooperative’s employees by ensuring that their needs are met during the quarantine period. Currently, the LPMPC is preparing a Land Bank-funded COVID-19 Response Enterprise Rehabilitation Loan worth P10,000 to P100,000 for members in good standing.

LPMPC also eyes the potential of online marketing for its fresh pineapple juice products and the use of modern technology and innovation to adjust to business demands under new normal condition.

The P27.62 million-worth Camarines Norte Queen Pineapple Trading and Processing Project is managed and operated by the LPMPC. It engages in value-adding activity by processing pineapple juice drink and pure pineapple juice out of fresh queen pineapple. It is projected to open employment opportunities in the community by increasing the profit of both the farmer-producer (source of raw materials) and cooperative. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V)

Photo Credits: Labo Progressive Multi Purpose Cooperative LPMPC FB page, Vee Ebron FB page and Hershey Ivee Joebz Ebron

File Photos by Hermito Antonio T. Privaldos, Eduardo D. Collantes Jr., PRDP RPCO V I-BUILD and Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V