Undertakings, no matter how similar they may seem, will always require new strategies and perseverance to succeed.
The Davao Multipurpose Seed Producers Cooperative (DAMSEPCO) and South Nueva Ecija Seed Growers Multipurpose Coop (South NESGMPC) are not new to government procurements. Since their establishment, providing seeds for public and private programs has been their bread and butter. So, when DA-PhilRice contracted them as partners in the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) – Seed Program, they said yes without hesitation.
However, when they were oriented about the program’s system of operations, they realized the experience would not be the same. But they still decided to take on the challenge for the love of rice, farmers, and our country.
Leonardo Guinto, the chairperson of South NESGMPC, immediately convened his members to strategize. It has always been his principle to openly communicate with the group.
“RCEF has a unique process compared with the other programs we have participated in. For one, we needed to deliver to the local drop-off points. We do not have enough funds for trucking expenses then,” Guinto, 67-year-old, said.
They planned their land-and-sea transport scheme because they were asked to supply seeds in other regions apart from Central Luzon, such as CALABARZON, Bicol, Western and Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao.
South NESGMPC, whose seeds were to be delivered to other regions, had to make advance payments to laborers and truckers, and wait for reimbursements. The good thing, according to Guinto, is that the DAPhilRice processes payments quickly.
“We do not face major problems in processing payments with the Institute, as long as documents are complete, properly filled out, and well-organized,” he explained.
Dennis Ybañez, the then newly installed manager of DAMSEPCO, said they also shared the same predicament.
“With RCEF, we were given a sure market, so we could not turn down this opportunity. However, the demand is gigantic. I often asked myself, ‘can we really give what they’re asking from us?’ The seed delivery process is also very systematic so it is different from our former engagements,” the 31-year-old manager said.
With only two trucks, they had to hire trucking services because the program contracted them to deliver seeds to Davao, Western Visayas, Caraga, SOCCSKSARGEN, and Northern Mindanao regions.
DAMSEPCO also struggled with the availability of registered seeds (RS). Without RS, it is difficult for seed growers to produce certified seeds.
“We met with the DA-PhilRice and the regional seed coordinators to find solutions to our concern. They thought it was more strategic if the major buyers of the RS produced by DA-PhilRice will be their partner-seed growers’ cooperatives/associations in RCEF,” Ybañez reported.
He was satisfied with how they were able to immediately resolve emerging concerns such as this, thanks to the active assistance of the RCEF Program Management Office (PMO) of DA-PhilRice.
The biggest challenge
Among all the challenges that both groups faced, one seemed to stand out and will most likely stay.
The RCEF seed sack has a resounding message – “Dekalidad na binhing palay” (high-quality rice seeds). It even has a checkmark to signify that the label is true.
According to Teodora Briones, head of the PMO Planning Division and main coordinator of the program’s seed contracting with eligible seed coops/ groups, DA-PhilRice holds on to the premise that farmers deserve the best. So, they see to it that the RCEF seeds are true to their claim, as their sacks blare.
This keeps Guinto and Ybañez on their toes.
“It is hard but we share the same goal with the program – to produce, deliver, and distribute high-quality seeds to the farmers. It is our social responsibility. We want to support our rice farmers, too,” Ybañez pronounced. So far, they have not received any complaints on the seeds they produced, and he is proud of their feat.
Guinto’s group also believed in this so they remain firm in ensuring that their members produce high-quality seeds. “We always aim to do better because the message is clear for us – the program should not be taken lightly. DA-PhilRice is very strict but we understand that it is crucial,” he said.
They pledged to make sure that their seeds are true to the claim on the sacks.
The rewards of enduring
The story of both cooperatives does not end with challenges, thankfully. While staying as RCEF’s partners, they endured with flying colors.
South NESGMPC and DAMSEPCO were recognized as outstanding partners of RCEF Seed during the program’s Midyear Review in August 2021, and Annual Review in February 2022, respectively.
Receiving recognitions from seed buyers was a first for both groups so they rejoiced with it.
More than that, they also achieved different forms of success. South NESGMPC felt secure to have a sure market in RCEF Seed Program and receive faster payments. Guinto also said its members took pride in their increased incomes.
Meanwhile, DAMSEPCO was able to buy a wing van and a solar dryer, while many of its members now troop to the Coop in 4-wheel vehicles.
“They only rode bicycles before,” Ybañez spilled the beans.
The RCEF Seed Program continues to innovate so that farmers could experience better service. While these are fast-paced changes, South NESGMPC and DAMSEPCO vow to keep up. For Ybañez, the key is to stay diligent, strategic, and loyal to the partnership. For Guinto, service should always be the foundation.
“If we are to graduate from this program,” Guinto enunciated, “we want to be summa cum laude. Looking at rice fields now is rewarding. Crops grow uniformly, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold. But beyond that, we are striving to do our best because we like to contribute to the betterment of the lives of the Filipino farmers, for them to acquire increased incomes, and for them to be able to send their children to school.”