A civil engineer who worked for six years in Saudi Arabia returned to his hometown of Sta. Rita, Pampanga, in 1992 and decided to make farming as his main source of livelihood by planting rice and vegetables in his own three hectares. He is Fidel David who finished his engineering course in 1987 at the Guagua National Colleges.
Knowing the difficulty of some of his barrio mates in Brgy. San Matias in making money from farming, he thought of organizing the Bangon San Matias Multi-Purpose Cooperative that initially engaged in palay and vegetable trading. He believed that by engaging in trading, his fellow farmers will have a better opportunity to sell their produce at a better price.
His cooperative is small compared to other groups. They have only 26 regular members and 15 associate members. But being small has its advantages. It is much more manageable and the members could be served more efficiently.
The members grow high-value vegetables such as different varieties of pepper, hybrid tomato, eggplant, cucumber, squash, upo, sitao and several others. Most of them usually devote 2,000 or a bit bigger to vegetables which is quite profitable. Last September, David planted Django, a hot finger pepper, on 2,000 square meters. He started harvesting 65 days later, and during the peak production month of December and January, he was harvesting 1.5 to 2 tons every five days. The price was as much as P190 per kilo but the price went down later. The plants were still productive during our interview last May 22 but the farmgate price had gone down to P15 to P20 per kilo.
The co-op is helping the members by giving production loans not in cash but in kind. For pepper production, the amount is P10,000 to P15,000 while it is P25,000 to P35,000 for ampalaya. David said that the farmer can net P70,000 to P80,000 from his 2,000 square meter ampalaya plantation.
He confesses that it is not easy to open up markets for their vegetables. He remembers they had really difficulty penetrating many public markets in Pampanga because he suspects that there are syndicates controlling the markets. He says, however, that they are concentrating on the markets in San Fernando and Guagua in Pampanga, and Dinalupihan, Bataan.
David is very thankful that the Department of Agriculture gave them a free space at the Cloverleaf Market in Quezon City last year. With this David is very upbeat about the prospects for growth of his cooperative because their products could now be sold to direct buyers.
By ZAC B. SARIAN