Co-ops to address growth disparities in agriculture

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 January) — In typhoon-wracked 2009, Northern Mindanao registered the highest growth rate in agriculture with 4.6 percent compared to the 0.37-percent national average.

Roel R. Ravanera, dean of the Xavier University College of Agriculture (XUCA) said that Northern Mindanao has always been consistent in agricultural growth. He was quick to point out however that looking at the growth data alone would not give an accurate picture of the agriculture sector with 53 percent of the land tillers and fisherfolk in the region living below the poverty line.

Ravanera was addressing the launch of the Farmers Day at the month-old Cooperative Market inside the 64-hectare Manresa Complex, just across the sprawling SM mall Friday morning.

He said the disparities in the agriculture growth rate and high incidence of poverty are an equity issue, adding it can be addressed by spurring productivity in the farming communities.

The Cooperative Market sells products from cooperatives ranging from coconut sugar, indoor plants and health drinks to organically produced fresh vegetables.

“We are starting to attract niche market, especially those who are health conscious,” said CM manager Luther Labitad.

He said that their stock inventory is moving fast and he was hoping the supply side will be strengthened. One fast selling product is the coconut sugar produced by a farmers cooperative in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental.

“Daghan mo order og bulk (Many would order in bulk) and we just refer them to the producers, pero maglisud pod lagi sila cope sa demand (but they find it hard to cope with the demand),” Labitad said.

Newly installed Ating Koop Party-list Rep. Isidro Lico said that he would work to support the small agricultural producers.

Lico, who was sworn in as congressman last Dec. 13, said that of the soft projects in his P15-million Priority Development Assistance Fund for 2010, he has earmarked P7.5 million. Most of this, he said, will go to microfinance to help small farm producers.

Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) 10 Director Orlando R. Ravanera said that the thrust of the development work of their office is to strengthen micro, small and medium enterprises that are into production.

“If you give them a place to sell their products, they will be encouraged to produce more,” Dir. Ravanera said of CM, his brainchild which intends to provide the market for products coming from small producers.

He added that cooperatives have traditionally been into selling but that most of the products they sell are actually produced by big companies.

“This time, we must prove that the cooperative as an empowering institution should sell what is produced by poor Filipinos, who will soon eke out of poverty as they have transformed themselves into highly productive citizens,” he said.

Asked if the choice of putting up the CM right across the SM mall is a statement in itself, Ravanera said, “Yes, it is a statement that we are here and that people should patronize the products produced in their communities.”

Every Friday and Saturday, farmers cooperatives are welcome to display and sell their produce at the CM. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)