MAGSAYSAY, Davao del Sur (MindaNews / 27 Aug) – Members of the Magsaysay Organic Farmers Marketing Cooperative (Mofarmco) in this municipality are seeking for a certification from the Negros Island Certification Services (Nicert) this year.
In an interview on Wednesday, Mofarmco manager Cristina E. Soria said representatives from Nicert will visit organic rice fields for pre-inspection on the farmers’ organic practices anytime this year.
“We want to have a pre-inspection first so that they (Nicert) can correct us with our existing practices that need to be improved, so that we will have better chances of passing the final inspection,” she said in Cebuano.
To ensure that Mofarmco members would have a set of guidelines in organic farming, the cooperative has established an internal control system (ICS).
Nicert provides inspection and certification services to farmers who want to venture into organic farming. The organic-certifying body also “assures the quality of organic products, that is ecologically produced according to specific standards, and to create and develop an environmentally sustainable agricultural system.”
Mofarmco chairperson Antonio R. Serencio Jr., who has been an organic farmer since the 1990s, said one of the advantages of organic farming is that it requires a lesser production cost with the use of organic fertilizers that all cooperative members produce by themselves.
Conventional farming, meanwhile, requires expensive chemical fertilizers to prevent pest infestations and diseases. Organic farming only needs a good and proper water management system to produce quality grains and keep the pests and diseases at bay, Soria added.
What’s good about organic farming is that farmers can benefit from price premiums, he added.
Mofarmco started organic rice production in 2004, known back then as Magsaysay Organic Farmers and Workers Association (Mofawa).
The cooperative has grown to over 20 members with a total of 26 hectares to date. He said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 11 assisted them find new markets in Digos City and Davao City after suffering a dwindling number of members for lack of market in its early years.
Soria added they are in talks with Manila-based company Glocorp., which would demand from them 300 bags (each bag contains 50 kilograms) of organic rice a month.
However, she added they cannot meet the demand at their current production rate with only 1,000 bags of fresh palay per cropping season.
Rice has two cropping seasons – the wet (from August to September) and dry (from February to March). They already supplied the Glocorp. with 100 bags of black rice and 150 bags of red last June.
“They at least want us to supply them 300 bags of rice a month initially,” she said.
Aside from rice, the company also buys organic muscovado for export, Soria said.
To cater the growing domestic demand, she said they are hoping to expand their rice fields to increase their production volume.
“Before, our supply was just enough for the malls and walk-in buyers, but now we are running short of supply,” she said.
Serencio is hoping to increase the number of organic rice farmers in their municipality to help address global warming and advocate for health and wellness.
Members who want to shift from conventional to organic, he said, are welcome to join but they must undergo a 12-to 18-month transition period.