Farmers’ co-ops keep Bukidnon dairy industry alive

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – After 25 years, the 35-member Dalwangan (Malaybalay) Multi-purpose Dairy Cooperative has become one of nine cooperatives supplying cow’s milk to the Northern Mindanao Federation of Dairy Cooperatives (NMFDC), producer of Highlander milk products.

Charlo Dumindin, the cooperative’s chairperson, said their increasing local sales show that the people of Malaybalay have come to realize that locally-sourced milk is a healthy choice.

Every week, the group sells raw milk to NMFDC and sells milk products from the federation’s processing plant in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental in Bukidnon mainly in Malaybalay City.

He said every month, he earns close to P7, 000 from raw cow’s milk and about P8,000 from processed milk products like milk bars and packed fresh milk.

He said they already have loyal customers in school canteens around Malaybalay and patrons from among the residents who frequent their shop in the downtown area.

Dumindin said because of trust and their consistent promotion the business is becoming lucrative again after slow sales in previous years.

But he said they could not yet cope with demand. He noted that of their 88 heads of cow, only 17 are lactating at the moment allowing them to produce only 136 liters per day.

The cooperative runs a milk collection-chilling station with an arrangement with the NMFDC to deliver at least 800 liters a day.

Dumindin blamed the limited stock to nutrition problems and poor breeding practices. He said the local dairy industry needs some help from the local government, for example, even if they are trying to produce as much milk.

He said they raise cross-bred cows like Holstein-Sahiwal and Holstein Jersey from New Zealand.

With its current output of 136 liters per day, the cooperative has a projected production of 10,800 liters per year given 300 lactating days.

He said, however, that if a farmer has three lactating cows at a time, “he won’t lose.”

He added that local dairy entrepreneurs would benefit if given a chance to put up an outlet along the highway.

“We need that marketing boost, but it is still a dream for now,” he said.

The cooperative at the moment also earns from livelihood loans to members for a maximum of P5,000 for three months at 1-percent interest.

“This is helping our members survive,” he said.

But the cooperative is already drawing not only the usual dairy farmers.

In 2009, bank executive Nerwin Sicalan invested in his own cattle herd of four heads. Believing in the growth potential of the local dairy industry, he said, he joined the cooperative for there is no other place where he could find education on and support to the dairy industry.

He said for 20 years, the cooperative has “structured support system” of dairy farmers working together. He said its organization, network, and being located near the Northern Mindanao Agricultural Research Center of the Department of Agriculture provides the right environment.

Sicalan said that given ideal conditions, dairy investment offers higher returns than a bank deposit.

“In general, it improves the Philippine dairy industry, and saves foreign exchange due to reduced importation of milk,” he said.

According to data from the Dairy Confederation of the Philippines, dairy products comprise the second largest agricultural importation, next only to rice.

Based on the Dairycon data presented by Sicalan, the Philippines import 1.6 billion liters of milk annually, equivalent to US$712 million or P125 billion from 138 importers, traders and processors.

The inadequate number of dairy animals, it added, is the biggest hindrance to Philippine dairy development.

As of 2009, out of the country’s 34,093 dairy animals only 15,891 are lactating.

The industry’s response was dairy cattle importation to keep steady the growth of the local dairy industry.  From 1984 to 2009, the Philippines imported a total of 7,925 tropical cross-bred cattle heads, almost doubling its herd size in 1984 of 9, 675.

The importation, however, was not enough to significantly expand local milk production. One problem was that local herd raisers lamented the high cost of importing a cattle head at P130,000 as “prohibitive”, Sicalan said.

Another problem was the scarcity of supply of imported cattle.

Sicalan said that with limited budget from the government it was mainly through official development assistance that the local dairy industry was able to import.

He said these can be addressed by a serious program that will enable the local dairy industry to produce its own animal requirements through the establishment of multiplier farms.

Citing a study by the US Department of Agriculture in aid of the Philippine dairy industry, Bukidnon was identified as the “best environment” for dairy cattle because the cross bred stock is suited to cool climate.

“I’m investing here where I think there is a lot of potential for young raisers like me,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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