By Zac B. Sarian

If you ask Jess Domingo what is the most profitable crop he has grown in his farming life, he will tell you that it is the red hot chilli. Last year, he made a net profit of Php70,000 from 700 square meters. Yes, net profit. All expenses deducted.

That’s Php100 per square meter in a culture period of nine months. In one hectare, that translates into Php1 million profit.

Jess Domingo owns Rancho Domingo, an integrated organic farm in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.

Jess Domingo is very meticulous in his computations. After all, he was a top-notch chief financial officer of multinational companies (Pepsi, San Miguel, and Nestle) before he retired at 50 to pursue his two passions – culinary and organic farming. He owns Rancho Domingo in Alfonso Lista, Ifugao.

Jess first became famous among agribusiness enthusiasts when he proved that he could make a net profit of more than Php5,000 per head of fattened hog by using his own formulation of fermented feeds.

Now, he is into integrated farming, raising pigs, fowls, vegetables, and of course, grass-fed cattle. He has tried planting the so-called “pinakbet” vegetables like tomatoes, ampalaya, eggplant, okra, and sitao. Well, sometimes these crops are profitable, but there are times when the prices are so low because there is an oversupply of the same.

The problem with surplus pinakbet vegetables is that most farmers don’t know how to process them into products with added value.

What Jess loves about hot chilli is that the price has always been high. The lowest that he is getting now is Php50 to Php60 per kilo. But last December, when most of the crops in other places were damaged by Typhoon Lando, he was able to sell his fresh chilli fruits at Php1,000 per kilo.

One other good thing about hot chilli is that the fruits can be processed into products of higher value when the price of fresh fruits goes down. And that is what he has been doing when the price gets down to Php50 a kilo. He hastens to add, however, that the Php50 price per kilo is still profitable.

Hot chilli fetches a high price, especially when the supply is scarce. In December 2015, Jess Domingo sold his fresh fruits at P1,000 per kilo.

Because of his culinary expertise, Jess knows how to process chilli into flakes in oil. He currently produces chilli flakes in plain oil and another with rosemary flavor. He adds that flakes in oil can be stored for three years without any deterioration. After that, the product disintegrates into hot sauce, which is still a high-value product.

He says that one kilo of fresh hot chilli fruits can be made into flakes in oil with a value of R 400. He currently sells his processed hot chilli to a major food company with nationwide outlets. The bigger bottle, 250 ml, sells for Php100 while the rosemary-flavored flakes in smaller bottles sell for Php70 each.

The flakes can be used several ways. It is an ingredient in hot dishes (chilli crab for instance) or a sauce for siomai and other Chinese food. It can be added to soy sauce or bagoong with calamansi as a dipping sauce for grilled meats or fish. What Jess also does is to mix half a teaspoon of the oil in his coffee. He claims it makes the body system warm to start the day.

Expanded Plating

Because of the high profitability of Red Hot pepper, Jess has expanded his plantation to one hectare this year. The seedlings are planted in plots that are one meter wide. Two rows are planted and the seedlings are 60 to 70 centimeters apart in the row.

The plants are fertilized with vermicast and they are also sprayed with EM fermented juice and EM5 which contains vinegar, molasses, water and chilli. These concoctions also repel insects, Ninety days after planting, the first ripe fruits are harvested. Harvesting is done every two days. In the 700-square meter plantation he had in 2015, he usually hired four pickers who would pick about 50 kilos a day worth Php2,500 at the low price of Php50 per kilo. The pickers are paid Php200 a day.

In his farm, Jess says that after the first day of picking 90 days after transplanting, the plants remain productive in the next six months.

Wise advice: Here’s Jess Domingo’s wise advice. In choosing a crop to grow, select one that you can process into products of higher value.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s June 2016 issue.