Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Change has come in BUENASCAR and Butuan City

The Caraga Region has been a hub for logging, wood manufacturing and mining for many years.  Even today mining provides the most jobs of any employment sector in the region.  Because of this type of employment, people focused on wage earning jobs and food supply chains for the region developed mostly through connections with other more agriculturally developed regions to the south and west.

Caraga has the potential to be a food basket and agro tourism hub for the Philippines.  It has a long coastline, beautiful mountains and island locations that have a high potential for tourism.  Caraga has rich soils and water resources that could be developed for the benefit of agriculture.  If Caraga region is to develop its agriculture potential and become a hub for ASEAN activity in food production and export a lot of development and education must occur.

Winrock International is implementing a multi-year program called the Philippine Cold Chain Project.  Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, this project aims to help improve production and marketing of higher value perishable food in the Caraga region.  The program has just started its 4th year of work and is starting to have some high impact projects to show for its efforts.

If we take a trip down the road from Butuan City, we enter the BUENASCAR area.  This is short for the towns of Buena Vista, Nasipit and Carmen.

Starting with Carmen, a town on the coast and next to the mountains.  The climate and soils here are ideal for mango production.  But there is a lot of work to do with the over 60,000 mango trees in the municipality.  Pruning, fertilization and irrigation are needed as well as more education for farmers on how to manage mango farms efficiently.  Traditionally mangos have been shipped out by boat or plane to Cebu or Manila and very little promotion has been done to give Carmen mangos the branding attention they deserve.  Carmen has worked with and Spanish NGO to develop a small processing facility for puree and dried mango production.  But more needed to be done.  PCCP has worked with the municipality on developing producer groups and developing a first class food handling facility that, when completed, will be able to handle large volumes of mangos and enable them to be sorted and processed locally in order to improve farmer incomes and keep hard earned money here in the Caraga region.

Moving on to Nasipit, we find the Nasipit Port where weekly, over 120 containers of various types of bananas arrive from all over Mindanao and  are shipped to Manila and Cebu.  The handling of these bananas is still done in a way that has not changed for several decades.  Inside the port, bananas are “stuffed” into hot containers and block ice is used to try and keep them from getting too hot or becoming over ripe before they reach their destination.  PCCP has helped the LGU of Nasipit and the Philippine Ports Authority come up with a solution for banana and other food shippers on a one hectare parcel near the port.  This building and lot, called the Carara Regional Integrated Marketing Center will serve as a food hub for shipments of perishable food being shipped out of and into the Nasipit port.

Just down the road from Nasipit we arrive at Buena Vista.  This LGU is one of the recipients of equipment and training to help improve municipal slaughter facilities.  The previous facility, located near the city market was in complete disrepair.  This joint effort will help ensure humane handling of animals and keep the carcasses clean and up off the floor during slaughtering and processing.  

Just outside of Butuan City not far from the Bancasi Airport is a new warehouse facility operated by Happy Enterprise.  Actually two warehouses were constructed with help from PCCP.  Even through these are dry store warehouses, they provide benefits to PCCP partners.  Happy Enterprise is the warehouse provider for Pilmico Feeds.  Because of increases in volume of feed demand in the region, a new feed warehouse was needed.  Happy and PCCP partnered to build one warehouse for human food and one warehouse for animal al feeds that now help to meet the increases in feed demand as a result of PCCP activities.

Just a short drive to Libertad in Butuan we pass by a construction site.  After three years of looking for the right partner, PCCP has located a businessman who is willing to partner in putting up the first cold store warehouse in the Caraga Region.  PCCP has championed the need for Butuan as a regional hub to have cold store warehouse facilities available as can be found in Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Cebu or Manila.  With PCCP support, finally such a facility will be available in Butuan City to service the cold storage needs of the Caraga Region!

Turning to the left from Libertad we reach Masao. Masao has a high potential for fish cage production.  Currently PCCP is helping local groups to improve production and marketing of milk fish.  Areas to be improved include availability of milk fish fry or garungan and improve clustering of fish producers to facilitate marketing. Additionally more reliable supplies of ice for harvesting milk fish must be secured.

Driving back into town we pass by a FICCO branch office. FICCO provides coop membership in a micro credit bank.  FICCO is working with PCCP in order to provide agriculture loans to individual farmers and suppliers.  These loans are facilitated though a guarantee fund provided by PCCP that enables FICCO to take a risk on a new business venture such as agriculture loans.

Traveling into Butuan City we visit the Butuan City slaughter facility.  A company from Cagayan de Oro has entered in to a public private partnership with the city in order to rehabilitate this facility which coincidentally is located next to the offices of the National Meat Inspection Service.  What was previously a low standard facility has been upgraded to near AAA status.  PCCP is assisting with establishment of a first class chilling and freezing room connected to this plant.

Just across the fence from the slaughter house in Butuan, even more construction is occurring.  In this case PCCP, Happy Enterprise and Pilmico are partnering to develop a meat cutting plant.  This plant will provide hygenic packaged meat for sale in Happy stores or to other commercial customers.  It will also provide a regular demand for pigs that will be met by PCCP farmer groups in the Caraga Region.

If we continue our journey north or south in the region, we will find many groups of farmers and fisherfolks who are benefitting from PCCP partnerships.  With the assistance of the DA, DTI,  East West Seeds, SEAFDEC , Pilmico, VPO Farms, LGUs and other partners, PCCP is seeking to help farmers understand how to work toward producing high value perishable commodities that are in high demand throughout the region.  Shrimp, crabs, lobster, grouper, banana, mangoes, vegetables, pork, tilapia, milkfish, are commodities where PCCP is striving to reach a level where production matches demand and value addition can be done within the region and not outside.  The ultimate goal is to promote good agriculture practices where properly sorted and packaged commodities can, through the proper use of the cold chain, reach consumers in a fresh and healthy state and command the best prices possible.