Unity is the secret to the continuous success of the federated carabao dairy farmers cooperatives in the Philippines.
This, according to Gerardo F. delos Santos or Mang Gerry, Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabaos Cooperatives (NEFEDCCO) chairman.
“Sa pagkakaisa at pagtutulungan, sama-sama naming hinaharap ang bawat pagsubok na aming pinagdaraanan [With unity and cooperation, together we face every trial that we encounter],” Mang Gerry says.
The NEFEDCCO started its operation on January 22, 2002 with only nine farmer-cooperatives. These cooperatives were the first recipients of the Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) Dairy Buffalo Module.
To date, the federation has 55 cooperatives under its umbrella.
NEFEDCCO’s main objective is to help its members market their milk. It buys the milk from its coop-members, processes it into different milk products and sells these items to the general public at reasonable prices.
Some of the products that NEFEDCCO produces and markets are flavored milk drinks (banana, strawberry and choco-flavored), pastillas (pastillas de leche, plain pastillas and ube pastillas), cheeses (quick-melt white cheese, paneer and plain white cheese), yogurt drinks, leche flan and ice cream.
By 2016, NEFEDCCO aims to be the primary organization to process and sell carabao milk products in the country.
As part of its 13th founding anniversary celebration, the federation held its annual general assembly. This was attended by member-coops and officials from various government agencies that have been long-time partners of the federation.
“Thirteen years old na, teenager na kung baga sa tao [(They’re) already 13, already a teenager if it were a human being],” said Peregrino Duran, head of the Dairy Herd Improvement Program and Enterprise Development at PCC’s National Impact Zone, during the general assembly.
“Kung sa tao, handa na para sa mas maraming oportunidad [Just like in people, it is ready for more opportunities.],” he added.
Five of NEFEDDCO’s top milk producers in 2014 were recognized during the event. Catalanacan Multi-Purpose Cooperative topped all the other members with a total of 44,052.10 liters of milk sold to the federation followed by Pulong-Buli Primary Multi-Purpose Cooperative (24,986.14 liters), Bagong Pag-asa sa Bagong Talavera PMPC (20,306.90 liters), Casile Dairy Cooperative (16,135.65 liters) San Vicente Producers Cooperative (15,189.30 liters).
“Napakalaki ng naging tulong ng PCC sa NEFEDCCO [PCC has been a great help to NEFEDCCO],” Mang Gerry declared.
“Sa simula pa lamang hanggang ngayon ay lagi itong nandiyan para tumulong sa amin [Since the beginning until today, PCC is always there to help us.],” he added.
He also mentioned about the continuing support from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the local government units (LGUs) of Nueva Ecija.
Mang Gerry said that with the help of these entities, they were able to build their own processing plant, purchase storage equipment like freezer, holding tank and cooling tank, and acquire vehicles for use in transporting milk and laboratory equipment.
On the other hand, because of the increasing volume of its milk products, NEFEDCCO now markets its products outside of Nueva Ecija. They have sellers in Batangas, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Makati City and Quezon City.
The cooperative’s journey to success was not easy, says Mang Gerry. Just like every organization, they went through hardships and experienced a lot of problems.
“May matinding kakulangan noon sa kagamitan ang ating pederasyon lalo na sa pag-iimbak ng mga gatas na dinadala ng mga kasaping kooperatiba [There was an extreme shortage of equipment back then, especially as regards to our storage of milk that our members bring here],” Mang Gerry commented. “Pero salamat at tumulong agad ang PCC. Nagpresenta ito na buksan ang kanilang planta para sa mga sobrang gatas na hindi na kayang iimbak ng pederasyon [We want to thank PCC, for they opened their processing plant for the excess milk that we cannot store],” he added.
NEFEDCCO’s story is just one of the many successes in the continuing advocacy of PCC for carabao dairying in the country. The federation serves as concrete proof that in dairy carabao raising, wealth for the farmers is within reach.