Cluster group to chart Bukidnon rubber road map

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 31 Oct) – A Bukidnon industry cluster grouping among present and would-be investors in the rubber industry was formed after the success of a rubber production seminar Tuesday.

Junar Merla, Department of Trade and Industry senior development specialist, told reporters Wednesday the group intends to come up with a road map for the Bukidnon rubber industry.

Merla said the informal group dubbed as “coalition of the willing” was intended for rubber industry players to facilitate collaboration and technology sharing.

He said it is for the planters, processors and traders to agree among themselves to abide to certain standards,” Merla said in a press conference organized to wrap up the consumers’ welfare month.

The rubber industry seminar, Merla added, presented to possible investors the basics of rubber production. He added that resource persons from Central Mindanao University also presented the prospect of rubber processing like smoke crepe, a rubber derivative used to produce tires.

“It is an added value and an opportunity to earn more,” he said.

From 30 expected participants, 62 persons joined the seminar in Central Mindanao University, which DTI organized as part of its initiatives for the National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Program (NICCEP), which is funded by the Japanese Government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Among those who joined, Merla added, were physicians and retirees who are interested to invest in the rubber business.

Rubber is a priority cluster identified by DTI for assistance under NICCEP, which offers assistance in technology, capability building, and logistic support.

Merla told MindaNews rubber is an employment driver “that draws big investment with a big multiplier effect in agri-business.”

He cited that Philippine government agencies are pooling resources to support the industry. The country’s rubber industry, he said, can take advantage of a supply vacuum in Malaysia after farmers there shifted to oil palm plantation.

“There is high demand for rubber. That’s why we need to improve quality to pass international standards,” he said, citing a Japanese tire company that refused to buy beyond six percent of supply already bought from the country due to poor quality.

Engr. Alson Quimba, provincial agriculturist, recognized that rubber is not yet among Bukidnon’s top producing crop sector.

“But we are promoting rubber because of the high demand in the world market,” he added.

Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKCCI), welcomed the prospect because it provides a viable alternative for Bukidnon farmers.

Bioco, who owns the Mindanao Grains Processing Company based in Bukidnon and Isabela provinces, cited the win-win opportunity it offered to corn farmers.

“They can diversify their farming, both for corn and rubber,” he added.

Bioco said rubber also offers alternative to destructive farming practices in sloping areas.

He cited the plan of the cluster group, headed by Dr. Pol Murillo, to promote the establishment of more rubber processing plants and to develop a quedan system for rubber in the province. A quedan system assures viable storage system to protect farmers from volatile prices.

He added that the Department of Science and Technology offered to operate a research center for rubber. Merla said one intervention to address poor quality of rubber is a reliable testing center that is accredited internationally.

DTI opened the October 30 seminar to potential rubber investors and existing owners of plantations in Region-10 with limited knowledge on rubber.

Dr. Louella Cabahug, head of CMU’s Horticulture Department, and Prof. Reymon P. Ruba, of CMU’s College of Agriculture, were the main speakers. CMU runs at least a hundred hectares of rubber plantation and has a processing plant. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)