On an early Wednesday morning, able bodies of the Pili-based Camarines Sur Multipurpose Cooperative (CMPC) load up some 250 sacks of milled rice on their truck to be delivered to customers outside CamSur. Along with their produce roll the hopes of CMPC to hoist the livelihood of 1,400 Bicolano farmers they serve by creating a huge enterprise driven by true-blue champions of farmers.

The heart of what they do

Annielen L. Panerio, CMPC’s general manager, admitted that their Coop was originally formed in 2000 to provide credit service packages, trading loans, and time and savings deposits to its members. But when they began to sell milled rice in one of their trading stores years later, they learned that they could do more than merely providing financial assistance to their members.

“Camarines Sur has a large area for rice production, hence, we saw the potential for rice, not just for consumption, but also as an enterprise,” Panerio said.

Now, CMPC’s purpose is geared toward helping Bicolano farmers reduce their production expenses and propel the growth of their yields and incomes. They are even more determined to seek every opportunity to provide for the needs of their farmer-members and their families.

“We realized that the true purpose of a farmers’ cooperative is to give to our members every possible support they could get. We are here for that,” Panerio said.

In 2012, they decided to go full-blast on their rice enterprise to benefit the whole of Bicol. They then began massively recruiting farmers and decided to lend them farm inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, and pesticides instead of money.

“That makes our services more efficient and sustainable. We can be sure that the resources we lend them are directly being used for farming activities,” Panerio explained.

Rising to the challenge

As they began to pursue their new direction, CMPC noticed that their farmer-members had a hard time paying their loans. The cost of farm inputs also continued to spiral causing farmers to incur more debts.

In response, CMPC expanded their services in 2013, by procuring palay from their members at a price higher than other buyers.

“We buy at a competitive price because we want the farmers to earn, too, to have enough money to pay their debts, and to provide for the needs of their families,” Panerio reiterated.

They also became a distributor of fertilizers and dealer of other farm inputs, which they offered to their members at lower prices.

“We are glad to have resorted to such solutions. We needed to acquire the proper facilities to upscale and industrialize our operations,” Panerio shared.

They also began building beneficial partnerships to upscale their activities. They sought help from the Department of Agriculture and applied for assistance in the form of facilities, transportation equipment, and warehouses.

With their effective 2012-2013 performance documented, DA granted them a rice processing center and a flatbed dryer in 2014.

CMPC also linked with other coops and associations in CamSur to consolidate farmers’ demand for fertilizers and attain lower prices of farm inputs through bulk orders. They established fertilizer outlets through their partner dealer-cooperatives in 2014. Two years after, their outlets extended from CamSur to Camarines Norte, Albay, Masbate, and Sorsogon.

Earning and growing

Living out industrialization, CMPC continued acquiring more facilities and equipment, finding new markets, and catering to the needs of farmers in their area.

The 19-year-old cooperative now owns a delivery truck, mini 4WD tractor, rice processing centers in Minalabac and Ocampo, offices in Pili and Calabanga towns, flatbed and solar dryers, and several rice mills.

They also established a wider and more reliable venue for farmers to market their harvest.

They coordinated with traders to facilitate the selling of their members’ rice produce. Despite the lack of vehicles then, they continued to transport palay from the farm to their customers by renting tricycles, jeepneys, and trucks, not minding the additional administrative, monitoring, and transportation costs it incurred on them.

They also knew that the competition for rice was already tough among the big dealers in Naga City and Pili, so instead of loitering in an already saturated market, they decided to find a new one. That was when they found their market in the remote areas of Masbate. They also began in 2017 supplying rice to beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in various areas in CamSur.

Remaining true to their purpose, CMPC’s acts of serving the farmers did not go unnoticed. In 2018, the Cooperative Development Authority recognized them as the Most Outstanding Agricultural Cooperative in Bicol Region – an award befitting those who can build a sustainable enterprise where farmers’ interest comes first.•

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute