Upscaling farmers through clustering amidst COVID-19 crisis

Photo by Todd Trapani from Pexels.

By Mike U. Crismundo

BUTUAN CITY – Despite of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here added some farm production programs to its roster. Among these are corn and cassava production, which is the driving force of the agency in adopting a clustering approach in extending its services to the farmers in the region.

Melody Guimary, DA-Caraga’s regional corn program coordinator said that currently there are 18 existing corn clusters in the region consists of 3,622 farmers with a total area of 6,326 hectares.
“A cluster should have at least 200 hectares contiguously located, with an organized and registered farmers’ organization with the complete set of officers,” she said.

Guimary further explained that each cluster should have a cluster development plan but in a municipality or city that has multiple clusters, a municipal or city corn development plan should be formulated and adopted by the LGU.

Aside from the current 18 corn clusters, around 9 areas have an on-going application to be clustered with 1,280 farmers and with an area of 2,759 hectares, while another 10 areas are being proposed with 1,438 farmers and an area of 2,249 hectares.

“If all areas will be finally classified as a cluster, Caraga Region will have a total of 37 corn clusters with 6,340 farmers and a total area of 11,334 hectares,” Guimary said.

On existing corn clusters, Butuan City is on top with 6 clusters, followed by 3 in Las Nieves, 2 in Trento, Agusan del Sur, and 1 each in other municipalities.

Guimary further said that DA’s intervention is being focused on a cluster areas such as farm tractors, harvester, dryer, inputs, trainings, and other interventions needed by the cluster based on their development plan.

Organized farmers can also easily access loan supports from the government or private financial instutions.

“With the creation of clusters, DA Caraga through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) assisted the farmers in forging marketing agreement with potential buyers, while other clusters had established their own marketing agreement with local existing buyers since they have the volume upon harvest,” Guimary said.

This is the case of Carmen, Surigao del Sur wherein they have an existing buyer in the municipality with the presence of the Balangay Feed Factory Incorporated (BFFI) in the area.
Rencio Valeroso, cluster head of the Federation of Corn Growers Association and Vice-Chair of the Philippine Maize Federation Caraga Chapter said that clustering is a good approach being adopted by DA Caraga.

“Upon harvest, we have the volume of production, so as a cluster, we can market our produce with ease at BFFI,” Valeroso said who is also a Sangguning Bayan member.

Carmen cluster became a recipient of DA’S interventions such as Village Type Dryer, corn picker, recirculating dryer, and corn planter.

“We are so grateful with DA-Caraga for the support they have given for our corn farmers, helping us during pre and post-harvest operation, and giving us access for trainings within and outside the region,” Valeroso said.

DA in coordination with LGU is also currently in the process of identifying cassava areas to be clustered.

Secretary William Dar, in his eight paradigms in agriculture, promotes and supports farm consolidation to bring about economies of scale, particularly for crops that require mechanization and massive use of technology.

For more information, visit the Department of Agriculture – Caraga.

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