BANAUE, Ifugao – Full operation of the enhanced heirloom rice processing business of the Rice Terraces Farmers’ Cooperative (RTFC) is now in full swing with the completion and turnover of their enterprise subproject on the processing and marketing of quality export Ifugao heirloom rice, held recently at Amganad, Banaue Ifugao.
The newly constructed Ifugao Heirloom Rice Consolidation, Processing, and Marketing Center along with a trading capital and several processing machineries turned over to the RTFC as part of their enterprise.
During the turnover ceremony, Ifugao Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Agustin C. Calya-en, representing Ifugao Governor Jerry U. Dalipog, commended the efforts of the RTFC and everyone involved, for their compliance with the requirements of the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP).
“We have been beneficiaries of several foreign-funded projects in the past, so we know that the requirements are not easy especially for the local government units (LGUs),” Calya-en said.
Calya-en added that despite having implemented under 3 LGUs, the importance of the continuity of efforts towards the collective well-being and happiness of Ifugaos must be sustained, which falls in line as one of the province’s missions.
The RTFC’s enterprise subproject aims to improve the socio-economic status of its farmer-members while empowering the heirloom rice industry. Through the enterprise, RTFC intends to increase total heirloom rice production from its farmer-members from 42,930 kilograms to 220,000 kilograms in the span of 10 years; increase farmer income by 5 percent on the first year; increase income of the cooperative by 100 percent until the 10th year; increase RTFC members by at least 2 percent every year; and create employment.
For the enhancement of their processing business, the RTFC received a total of PhP12.49 million enterprise support from the DA-PRDP, 60 percent of which came from the World Bank 60 percent, 20 percent from the DA, and 20 percent from the Ifugao provincial government. As the proponent group, the RTFC contributed a 20-percent counterpart in cash and in kind, amounting to PhP2.18 million.
DA-CAR Regional Technical Director Atty. Jennilyn M. Dawayan, representing DA-CAR OIC-Regional Executive Director and RPCO-CAR Project Director Cameron P. Odsey, urged the RTFC members and officers to sustain the production of heirloom rice and take care of it and the culture behind.
“Our heirloom rice is a premium rice with cultural value so let us not forget the culture that has been handed to us by our ancestors in producing heirloom rice throughout the generations,” Dawayan said.
By going through the implementation process of the DA-PRDP, Dawayan added that the cooperative has learned to become more data-driven, which can be beneficial in terms of how they are going to operate the center. She further commended the cooperative for gathering and properly utilizing data in seeking assistance from various programs/agencies.
DA-PRDP Project Support Office (PSO) North Luzon Cluster Deputy Project Director Elma S. Mananes said that along with the upgrades, the income of the farmers must also be prioritized in order for more beneficiaries.
As he accepted the completed subproject on behalf of the members and officers of the RTFC, RTFC Manager Jimmy G. Lingayo recalled how it took years to finally complete the subproject, from a series of business plan preparation workshops, going through the procurement process, two site relocations, and up to the construction of the processing facility.
“We started the export business 10 years ago and we plan to export a total of 450 metric tons (MT) of heirloom rice to the US and another 200 MT for the local market,” Lingayo added.
He further encouraged the RTFC members who were present during the turnover to continuously bring their heirloom rice produce to the RTFC, and encourage other farmers to increase and sustain their production, for their hard work will surely not go to waste.
During the turnover, the attendees were able to have a tour of the three-story processing center that will be used to process, store, and market the heirloom rice produce of the RTFC.
According to Lingayo, the top floor (road level) will serve as a Pasalubong Center, where several local products produced by RTFC members such as heirloom rice, rice wine, rice cookies, coffee, ginger and turmeric tea, and some kitchen woodworks will be sold.
Among the Cordillera provinces, Ifugao has the largest area planted with heirloom rice varieties at 5,141 hectares. Additionally, Ifugao is the top producer of aromatic and pigmented rice with the municipalities of Mayoyao, Banaue, Hungduan, and Aguinaldo as the top producing areas.
Under the DA-PRDP, several farm-to-market road (FMR) subprojects are also being implemented in Ifugao to support the heirloom rice industry. Subprojects include the improvement of Viewpoint-San Fernando FMR in Banaue which is now at a 95.26 percent physical accomplishment rate, the Junction-Alimit-Nattum FMR improvement in Mayoyao, which is at a 97.6 percent completion rate, and the construction of Anaba-Ducligan-Banao FMR in Banaue currently at an 84.6 percent completion rate. Aside from these road projects, several Communal Irrigation System (CIS) subprojects were also completed in the previous years.
Heirloom rice is among the priority commodities in Ifugao that is supported under the DA-PRDP including coffee and highland vegetables.