The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has opened a new door of opportunities to its 500 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur when it spearheaded the construction of a food processing center to raise their level of competency from being mere raw farm products producers into food processors themselves.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Christianne Suguitan and Sta. Maria Mayor Edgar Florendo led the groundbreaking rites of the P500,000 food processing center in Barangay Tinaan, Sta. Maria.
Suguitan said the project’s aim is to increase the income of farmers by providing them with a facility to process and add value to their farm products, like sugarcane vinegar or sukang Iloko, a by-product of sugarcane.
Sukang Iloko is the “One Town One Product (OTOP)” of the municipality and the main agri-product of farmers in Sta. Maria.
“With this facility, farmers’ products can now compete in a wider commercial market for they can now process and test their products in accordance with the standards of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” Suguitan said.
Prior to the groundbreaking rites, the DAR signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Municipal Mayor Edgar Florendo and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the construction of the processing facility. The project would benefit the Macati Rang-Ay Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative.
Under the MOA, the DAR shall provide P350,000 for the construction of the facility, P100,000 for the product testing analysis and other laboratory tests of agri-products and P50,000 for the skills training of farmers.
It was also agreed that the DTI would provide machines for the processing facility such as sugarcane crusher, pasteurizer and bottle sealer, and technical assistance for product improvement.
The local government, in return, would provide counterpart fund for the construction of the facility and help in the promotion and marketing of sukang Iloko.
“We expect that the facility will be operational by next year, with the DTI taking care of its registration with the FDA,” Suguitan said.