Dairy farmers struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 crisis due to lack of market channels need not worry anymore as the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) extends support by purchasing Php500,000 worth of carabao’s milk products from farmers’ cooperatives.
A survey conducted by the research team of DA-Philippine Carabao Center (DA-PCC) showed that dairy farmers encountered major setbacks in terms of limited access to markets following the two-month quarantine period, which resulted in almost 50% reduction of dairy farmers’ income vis-a-vis their earnings prior to the pandemic.
Upon learning about the dairy farmers’ plight on excess milk, the SMC committed to buy from dairy farmers’ cooperatives directly hit by this health crisis.
“By buying their excess milk, we are hoping to help not only our farmers stay in business but also get these produce to food banks and communities, addressing the growing food insecurity facing the poorest families,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said in a press statement last May 30.
The SMC coordinated with DA-PCC in Nueva Ecija (NE) to put forward this initiative and identify dairy farmers’ cooperatives in NE where SMC would buy excess carabao’s milk from. The province of NE is known for being one of the leading producers of carabao’s milk in the country with more than 1.8 million liters of milk production in 2019 based on the data from DA-PCC.
After a joint meeting between the DA-PCC and SMC held last June 3, they were able to identify four DA-PCC-assisted dairy farmer-cooperatives with valid licenses to operate from Food and Drugs Administration, which included Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives, Catalanacan Multipurpose Cooperative Inc., Eastern Primary Multipurpose Cooperative, and Pulong Buli Multipurpose Cooperative.
The SMC through San Miguel Foundation Inc. (SMFI) provided fund of Php500,000 for the purchase of 25,000 sachets (Php20 per 200ml sachet) of toned carabao’s milk, a processed product from the farmers’ milk produce.
The DA-PCC, on the other hand, assisted the farmers’ cooperatives and its designated FDA-registered milk processing plant in the transport of the required number of sachets of toned carabao’s milk to its beneficiaries.
SMC, with the help of DA-PCC and dairy co-ops, began conducting a feeding program to distribute sachets of toned carabao’s milk to 25,000 beneficiaries—primarily vulnerable sectors (children, the elderly, and frontliners)—of hard-hit communities in Pampanga, Bulacan, Navotas, Manila, Malabon, Cavite, Quezon City, San Juan, and Mandaluyong.
The initiative is part of SMC’s ongoing efforts to help the agriculture industry and provide basic nutritional support to disadvantaged families and communities, as the country grapples with the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the economy and on people’s welfare.
Carabao’s milk is known to be healthy and nutritious, which can help boost the body’s immunity against COVID-19. It is lower in cholesterol and higher in calcium, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and energy according to the studies conducted by DA-PCC. Because of this, it’s described as “the most complete food”, and is even used in local government health programs to prevent malnutrition.
“This pandemic has really disrupted the daily source of income of dairy value chain players. That’s why the initiative of SMC is very timely. It came at the right time when dairy farmers needed it most. We are glad that in these trying times we have a national company like SMC that initiated to buy excess milk from farmers to help them ensure a sustainable income amid this crisis,” DA-PCC Executive Director Dr. Arnel Del Barrio said.
The project, which is being undertaken by the SMFI, will also have long-term and sustainable benefits for the farmers.
According to Mina Abella, DA-PCC’s Head of Carabao Enterprise Development Section, the SMC has brought into the Phase 2 of the project its packaging arm, San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corp. (SMYPC), to utilize its technical expertise to provide research and development (R&D) assistance to DA-PCC for the sterilization of milk and link with possible toll manufacturers.
In a press statement of President Ang last June 16, the SMC’s technical assistance will help DA-PCC to develop ways to extend the shelf-life of their carabao’s milk to 3-6 months, way beyond the current seven days. Extended shelf life will eliminate spoilage, thus, providing carabao farmers a wider market, and even higher output and livelihood.
This collaborative R&D effort will benefit recipients of DA-PCC’s feeding program in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Social Welfare and Development. With extended shelf life, the sterilized milk can be distributed to children in remote areas and schools with no storage facilities.