Breaking the cycle of dependency to unscrupulous rice traders who are taking advantage on farmers’ no consistent market access for their rice produce, members of the Piddig-Basi Multi-purpose Cooperative (PBMPC) beamed with pride now six years after the establishment of the DA’s Rice Processing Complex II (RPC-II) in this interior town of Piddig, province of Ilocos Norte.

Overwhelmed with how their lives were transformed because of the establishment of the RPC in the area, from being a subsistence farmer before to a progressive farmer now, the officers and members were truly delighted and full of gratitude to the Department of Agriculture.

Recalling how the project started in Piddig, Mr. Juanito Fabian, Operations Manager of the RPC during an interview made by DA-RFO I thru the Regional Agriculture & Fisheries Information Section (RAFIS), recognized the efforts of former Piddig Mayor Eddie Guillen, being the author of the RPC project and all other projects in Piddig benefitting the farmers in the area.

Organizing first the PBMPC, a consolidation of the 42 Zanjeras in Piddig with 845 farmer-members, gave way to a tremendous flow of support and interventions given to the farmers from the Local Government Unit of Piddig in tandem with the DA and its various attached and line agencies.

The RPC II established in Piddig, Ilocos Norte which is worth P16-million is among other projects which the DA has turned over to the PBMPC in July 2015. Since its establishment, farmer-members have enjoyed higher market price for their produce while at the same time giving consumers affordable and accessible supply of locally produced rice.

“Ïsa sa mga problema namin noon ay ang murang bentahan ng aming mga palay na binibili ng mga traders from Bulacan. Pagkatapos magiling, ibinabalik lang naman nila dito sa amin na bigas na may kamahalan na ang presyo,” Mg. Juanito relayed when asked what brought the farmers group to request for the rice processing center.

“Pero simula nung mag operate itong RPC, kami na ang nagdidikta ng presyo ng aming palay sa mas mataas na halaga at the same time, kung kumikita ang pagbebenta namin ng palay, kikita rin ang mga members namin,”Mg. Juanito said.

With the palay and rice trading activities being made in the RPC, its establishment also paved the way for the members to have access for capital in their farming activities with the provision of capital through loan provided to the members for only 1 percent interest rate per annum.

The BPMPC’s success can be attributed to the cohesive support of its leaders and the Department of Agriculture including the cooperation among the members and its officers.

“Napakalaki ang tulong na binigay ng DA sa amin maliban dito sa RPC dahil nabigyan din kami ng mga machineries katulad ng rice mill, harvester, planter at iba pang makinarya. Naging magaan na ang aming pagsasaka at hindi na magastos ang pag-aani namin sapagkat nabawasan na ang aming mga gastusin sa pagtatanim,” Mg. Juanito said.

With the 16 million investment of DA for the establishment of the RPC II, farmer-members of PBMPC including its neighboring municipalities really enjoyed the benefits it has served especially during the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a blessing in disguise itong nangyaring pandemya dahil malaking tulong sa amin upang mabenta ang aming mga produktong bigas,” Mg. Juanito informed.

For the municipality of Piddig alone, the PBMPC-RPC was able to supply around 2,000 bags at 50 kilos of its rice produce which were distributed to the affected families during the community quarantine. It has likewise supplied the municipality of Banna with 100 bags of rice at 50 kilos per bag, the municipality of Marcos with 100 bags at 25 kilos per bag and the City of Laoag with 500 bags at 25 kilos per bag.

Meanwhile, Mr. Noel Baliclic testified during the interview that a big factor to consider in their success as a group is the consolidated farming system that the DA and the LGU of Piddig have been promoting to farmers as it paved the way for better collaboration and partnership with the other farmers’ organization in the area.

According to Mr. Baliclic, the provision of technical assistance including the provision of farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizers provided opportunity for the farmers in Piddig to plant the same variety of hybrid and inbred seeds which provides them better yield and production.

Farmer-members of the PBMC could not help but compare how the establishment of the RPC truly improved their way of living.

“Napakahirap po noon dahil kanya-kanya kami. Kung kani kanino lang kami nagbebenta ng aming palay. Walang ipon at kung saan saan kami umuutang. Kung anu-ano na lang ang ibinibenta namin para may puhunan. Pero nung meron na itong RPC, dito na kami nagbebenta ng aming palay at nakakautang na kami ng puhunan sa mababang interes. Kaya naman umangat din ang aming pamumuhay,” Mr. Baliclic added

Mr. Lolito Jacinto, also a member of the PBMPC expressed gratitude to the DA and the officialdom of Piddig for the many benefits that he has derived from being a member of the group which changed his family’s living condition.

“I was able to send my children to school, acquired a motorcycle for transportation and have renovated our house with the extra income that I have obtained for the last five years of planting rice sold here in the PBMPC – RPC II,”Mr. Jacinto said.

With the establishment of the DA-RPC in Piddig, farmers here in the locality surely hopes for a better tomorrow as they all enjoy the benefits that it serves in the community.

– RAFIS Ilocos Region FB Account