P165-M agri-business project to benefit 7,700 tobacco farmers

THE National Tobacco Administration has allocated P165 million agri-business project to benefit an initial 7,700 directly-assisted tobacco farmers in Northern Luzon.

NTA chief Edgardo D. Zaragoza said the project is aimed at improving the economic and living conditions of tobacco growing communities through an integrated, comprehensive assistance scheme for small tobacco farmers.

The project will see the construction of the AgriPinoy Tobacco Farmers Food Processing and Trading Center (NTA AgriPinoy) at Barangay Nanguneg, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur that will soon engage in contract growing services for hog and poultry from among tobacco-farmer cooperators.

The trading center shall buy and process meat into best-selling products like bagnet, Vigan longaniza, tapa, bacon, barbecue, and similar products for sale in food terminals, groceries, markets, hospitals and offices in Region I, CAR and Metro Manila with the assistance of the Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) of the Department of Agriculture.

“It shall also provide an alternative marketing system and business model to increase tobacco farmers’ purchasing and bargaining power, and develop farmers’ capabilities to manage dynamic rural enterprises,” he added.

Data from the NTA show that on the first year of operations, farmer cooperators stand to earn over P8 million in annual aggregate incomes per year, in addition to income from quality tobacco production.

This is projected to increase to P 10. 4 million in the second year, P13.6 million in the third year, P17.8 million in the fourth year, and P23.3 million in the fifth year of  operation.

The project shall cover the whole of Ilocos Region in the immediate period, starting with Ilocos Sur as its priority coverage, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, and Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).  In the future, the project’s coverage shall expand to other major tobacco growing provinces in the Cagayan Valley.

The beneficiaries shall be involved in the production of raw materials for hog and poultry through a contract growing system where the NTA shall provide tobacco farmer-cooperators with production inputs.

NTA operations staff in branch offices in Region I and the CAR shall deliver the transfer of technology of hog fattening, and broiler growing coupled by a close in-process of technical assistance, monitoring, and supervision to the tobacco farmer-cooperators.
“Considering that the NTA AgriPinoy product lines cater to basic needs, and that food accounts for 46.91% of the personal consumption expenditures of average Filipino families, the NTA AgriPinoy will have a sure pre-arranged market, not only locally, but in the future, on a global scale,” Zaragoza said.

The NTA AgriPinoy project shall sustain the quantity, quality and competitiveness of price of all its product lines, and results of its operations shall flow back to the NTA to replenish its capital investment, he added.

“Notwithstanding the financial gains to be derived by the NTA, of paramount importance is the realization of our vision for tobacco farmers that they shall one day become partners in progress by being small entrepreneurs themselves, earning a modest and reasonable profit from their produce. For Filipino consumers, we envision that they too,shall have access to nourishing and affordable food,” Zaragoza also said.
The project is in line with the NTA mandate embodied in Executive Order No. 245, of undertaking an Integrated Farming and Other Income Generating Activities Project (IFOIGAP), as a strategic development program aimed at improving the conditions of small tobacco farmers.

The program involves “total farmer development” and “total market development”, which includes production of quality tobacco and other components – rice, corn, fruits, livestock and poultry.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture through Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, launched the AgriPinoy Food Processing Center Program (AFTC) in consonance with the Public-Private Partnership scheme espoused by President Benigno S. Aquino III as an investment policy.

Through the AgriPinoy framework, the NTA can now “actualize the implementation of its IFOIGAP more meaningfully and effectively” through the establishment and operation of a food processing center, and a comprehensive marketing intervention that shall involve the production of raw material inputs, purchasing, processing and distribution of products from tobacco farmers and tobacco growing communities.

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