As it approaches its 10th founding anniversary, the General Trias Dairy Raisers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (GTDRMPC) in General Trias, Cavite has already set the bar high in terms of carabao-based dairy production for other emerging dairy cooperatives.
Upon its establishment in 2005, the GTDRMPC rented a building to serve as its processing plant and marketing outlet with the help of the local government unit (LGU) of General Trias, popularly referred to as “GenTri”.
Five years later, the co-op transferred to a newly built processing plant funded by the GenTri LGU and the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (PCC at UPLB), one of the agency’s 13 regional centers.
Through the years, the co-op has been able to cultivate partnerships with various government agencies, parlaying such tie-ups into concrete forms of assistance. For instance, the GTDRMPC got a big boost when the Gentri LGU adopted carabao’s milk as its One Town, One Product (OTOP) under the promotional program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that seeks to highlight a locality’s product or service that shows competitive advantage.
The Department of Science and Technology through PCAARRD (Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development) and the DTI also provided the co-op with additional equipment for newly developed dairy products and cold storage facility. The DOST-PCAARRD likewise provided trainings on product development for the co-op staff.
Funding from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Department of Agriculture (DA) allowed the farmer-members of the co-op to undergo free trainings on proper carabao production and management.
The provincial government of Cavite and the Cooperative Union of Cavite also extended their support in terms of free capacity-building trainings for the co-op members.
Meanwhile, the co-op was able to link-up with several marketing partners who have brought the group’s dairy products beyond Cavite.
As the GTDRMPC continues to flourish, many residents of the town have been given additional livelihood opportunities. Its membership has grown to almost 200 from 44 original members.
The co-op currently collects at least 250 liters of carabao milk daily from its members who have a combined animal holding of almost 250 head, of which close to 80 percent are crossbreds. The collected fresh milk are processed into various dairy items, nearly 50% of which are marketed by the co-op’s distributors while the rest are sold at the co-op’s products’ outlet under their own label, “GenTri’s Best”.
Already producing and selling nine products of different flavors, the co-op is set to launch yet another product: soft ice cream. It will be launched in the coming summer season, when the members’ milk production is expected to surge, according to Desiree G. Paras, the co-op’s plant manager.
The GTDRMPC’s performance has gained recognition, including the DA’s “Gawad Saka Award”, a testament to the co-op’s steady success.
The co-op may have weathered the turbulence common to fledgling organizations, but as it nears a decade of existence, its sustainability is threatened by widespread industrialization in General Trias.
Touted by the provincial government of Cavite as one of the “new frontiers of growth and development among the CALABARZON area,” GenTri is fast becoming home to big industrial estates and commercial establishments.
“Land use conversion is very rapid in our municipality. Subdivisions are emerging everywhere,” Nerisa Marquez, GenTri municipal agriculturist of General Trias, Cavite, revealed.
According to the town’s website, there is indeed a “high incidence of land banking or purchasing of large tracts of cheap agricultural lands for the sole purpose of reclassifying them and developing them into other land uses.” This causes a decline of productive lands vital to the agricultural sector.
In the carabao industry, directly affected is the source of feed stuff for the buffaloes.
GTDRMPC chairman Samuel Potante affirmed that they are indeed feeling the effects of land use conversion. Most of them, he said, feed their carabaos through grazing in pasture areas and only a few practice the cut-and-carry system. Other forage areas are also decreasing, leading some co-op members to sell some of their stocks, he said.
“To cope with the situation, the co-op plans to rent land outside the municipality where we can plant forages for our animals,” Potante said.
At the LGU’s end, Marquez said they have launched a campaign among farmers not to sell their lands to developers.
“We are appealing to the Sangguniang Bayan of our town to legislate and allow the usage of all idle lands as pasture area for farmers since there are wide acres of land in the municipality that are left idle with no developments,” Marquez added.
Since the challenge is how to produce more on lesser land, Marquez is closely collaborating with PCC at UPLB for new technologies that will help maintain the level of production among the dairy farmers, especially in terms of feeding.
It also manifested how, despite the level of maturity the co-op has reached over the years, the LGU and PCC at UPLB have not totally weaned the co-op.
“The farmers need guidance in adopting technologies, such as other alternative feeds for the animals aside from rice straws and Napier grass. They also need assistance in seeking grants to avail of machineries, like rice straw bailers,” the municipal agriculturist shared.
But while industrialization may have negative effects on the production side of the carabao business, it may be favorable in terms of the marketing aspect.
“The market will expand and marketing will be accelerated,” Mariano Lumbre, a member of the co-op’s board of directors, enthusiastically said.
In fact, Potante said, the co-op plans to put up a coffee shop as another market venue for their milk produce.
Marquez also affirmed that the situation may pave the way for the development of another dairy-based industry.
“The LGU’s support for the dairy industry will continue. This time, a new association may be formed to capitalize on carabao’s milk as raw material,” she said.
From indications, there’s no stopping GenTri and its partners from vigorously pursuing carabao development, which augurs well for GTDRMPC and other groups following in its footsteps.