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SAAD abaca farmers on their way to sustainability

AGUSAN DEL SUR, December 14, 2022 – Toward sustainable enterprising, and encouraging more local fiber production, the Department of Agriculture- Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD)- assisted Muritula USAD Farmers’ Association (MuFA) engages in direct fiber buying and selling and acquired cooperative accreditation from Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).

The 80-member MuFA, now Muritula USAD Farmers’ Cooperative (MuFACo), is an association of experienced and new abaca farmers from Brgy. Muritula, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, organized through the SAAD Program in 2019.

From 2019-2022, the group received Php 3,521,882 worth of inputs, which includes 64,739 pieces of abaca planting materials (suckers, seedlings, corms), three (3) units of stripping machines (2 portable; 1 mobile), fertilizers, and pesticides, in support to their 80-hectare abaca production project (1 hectare per member).

In March 2022, the FA was granted CDA accreditation to sustain the operation of their enterprise and access other opportunities such as agency and market linkages and other government assistance that can expand the FA’s market and supply chain.

Cooperative President Santos Escalicas shared that they eyed transition as a cooperative as it is the sure way for them to progress in their business. “Isip grupo, nakita namo nga dire mi padulong aron mapalambo ang among panginabuhian. Positibo ang feedback sa tanan membro kay sa barangay palang daan na’ay buyer sa fiber, dili na sila kinahanglan pa mo gasto pa og P 5.00 kada kilo aron mahatod ang ilang fiber sa San Francisco,” he shared.

(As a group, we saw the importance to register as a cooperative to improve our livelihood. Members’ feedback is positive. They don’t need to pay an additional P 5.00 per kilo for transportation of fibers to the nearest buyer in San Francisco.)

MuFACO abaca trading landscape

On June 6, MuFACO formally entered a one-year marketing agreement with Farmers Alternative for Self-Reliance Multi-Purpose Cooperative (FASRMCO), a major consolidator of fibers in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. MuFACO members used to sell their fibers to FASRMCO individually prior to forming a cooperative themselves.

 In the meantime, the group consolidates at least 1,500 kg of fiber per week and sells them to cooperatives. By next year, however, upon establishing additional buying stations and more working capital, they will supply five (5) tons of abaca fiber every two weeks as stipulated in their marketing agreement.

As part of the expansion of their enterprise, MuFACO has two (2) buying stations,  one within their barangay in Culi and the other is located at Brgy. San Roque, Prosperidad, each with abaca stripping machines in place.

Project status

While the SAAD-funded abaca plantation which started from 2019 only fully matured for harvest this year, association members earned additional income from processing their existing abaca plantation stripped using machines provided by SAAD.

From 2019 to 2022 the group reports a total of Php 940,697.00 accumulated sales by members from selling fibers. 

Table 1. Sales of MuFACO from 2019 to 2021

*Income from April-November 2022 includes sales from fibers in SAAD provided intervention.

Before the SAAD Program’s assistance, abaca farmers from San Luis manually strip their abaca sheets, producing a low-grade (Binaba) fiber that can be sold for Php 34 to 39. With the stripping machine provided by the Program, MuFACO now produces Streaky 2 (S2), a high-grade fiber that can be sold 40% higher than Binaba.

Dakong tabang ang mga makinarya gikan sa SAAD. Pinaagi aning makina makaabot mi og 120 kilos/day nga stripping kontra sa demano nga taas ra nang 15 kilos sa usa ka adlaw,” Escalicas shared. 

(The machine from SAAD are a huge help. We can process abaca sheets into fibers as much as 120 kilos a day. Before, manually by hand, we can only process as much as 15 kilos a day.)

Since they buy fibers from their members to sell later in bulk, MuFACO earns around 5-10% profit from consolidation. As of December 2022, the group has a Php 130,002.62 balance in their savings account. 

Ways forward

MuFACO achieved its goal to become a cooperative this year and maintain 2 buying stations. Moving forward, the group is set to establish four (4) more fiber buying stations across San Luis by 2023.

As a stable income source in the years ahead, the group will also establish a separate 6-hectare communal plantation by 2023, aside from the hectare per member plantation they manage individually. 

In time before the conclusion of SAAD intervention support to the group under the Phase 1 implementation (2019-2022), MuFACO also sought financial aid from the DA Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) worth Php 4M awaiting for release in December. 

With the grant, the group allocates Php 3M to buy four more additional stripping machines, two single motorcycles, and a delivery vehicle. The remaining Php 1M they will use as additional working capital for fiber buying. ###

Writer: Mark Angelo Pineda, DA-SAAD Caraga Information Officer

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