For Mindanao veggie group, consolidation is key

Jun. 08, 2007

TAGUM CITY — Vegetable farmers in southern Mindanao should organize themselves and utilize the cluster farming approach as a strategy to raise the value of their produce and increase their access to lucrative domestic markets.

This was among the key recommendations made during the recently-concluded 3rd Southern Mindanao Vegetable Conference.

Southern Mindanaos vegetable farmers are still fragmented and this is one of the factors that has limited their expansion over the years, noted Roger Gualberto, President of the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMIN).

VICSMIN, which receives financial and technical assistance from USAIDs Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, has been spearheading efforts to introduce best farming practices to farmers to improve the quality of their produce and boost their incomes.

Gualberto explained that vegetable growers in Southern Mindanao have small farmlands, so individual production levels are insufficient to meet the volume requirements of large institutional buyers. This situation has perennially placed the regions marginal farmers at the losing end, since their limited production levels often compel them to sell their produce at below farm-gate prices.

The sad thing is that farmers are willing to sell at very low prices which are most likely dictated by traders – so that their vegetables dont go to waste, he added.

Gualberto said that these problems can be addressed by applying the cluster farming approach, which has been used effectively by vegetable growers in Northern Mindanao as demonstrated by the success of the GEM-supported Northern Mindanao Vegetable Producer Association (NORMINVeggies).

He noted that NORMINVeggies was successful in utilizing this system because its farmer-members were willing to organize themselves and to develop a collective strategy to penetrate profitable markets in Luzon and the Visayas.

Gualberto said that clustering works by adopting a harmonized system of production protocols, logistics and marketing strategies that enable individual farmers to meet the quality and volume requirements of institutional buyers and processors.

By combining their harvests, for instance, members of NORMINVeggies are able to regularly fill- 20-footer container vans and to ship 3.5 to 5 metric tons of leafy greens to large supermarkets, hotels and fast food chains across the country on a weekly basis.

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