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‘White revolution’ helps Ecija cope with drought

By Anselmo Roque
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:46:00 03/18/2010

Filed Under: Agriculture, Drought

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ?Gold is the color of the palay (rough rice) grain, while a blue hue rises from swimming tilapia and black-coated carabao.

But when these farm commodities are harnessed, all the various colors produce the white well-milled rice, the white tilapia meat and the pure white carabao milk.

In Nueva Ecija, these agricultural icons represent the three pillars of the ?white revolution,? an advocacy that has sustained this province through the ongoing drought.
The white revolution campaign was initiated by Gov. Tomas Joson III.

Rice production is the banner industry in this revolution.

The province cultivates 195,000 hectares for rice production when the rains come in, and harnesses 118,000 ha during the dry season.

Production hike

Its average yearly production rose to 1,113,284 metric tons (MT) from 2002 to 2006, according to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

This year, despite the El Niño phenomenon, the province is close to achieving its target of 1.69 million MT of palay, according to an estimate released by the Central Luzon office of the Department of Agriculture.

The rice economy in the province is worth at least P57 billion, according to the province?s agriculture profile.

In the late 70s, successful research and development for tilapia by the Freshwater Aquaculture Center of the Central Luzon State University led to new avenues for the widespread tilapia production.

The center benefited from the popularization of technologies such as sex reversal of tilapia, ?palay-isdaan? (rice-fish culture), cage culture of tilapia, poly culture of tilapia and other fish species, pond culture and tilapia fingerlings production.

Impact zone

Of late, dairying has combined with palay and tilapia in enriching the white revolution campaign.

Carabao-based dairying was introduced in the province in 1999 by the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC).

PCC executive director, Libertado Cruz, in coordination with Joson and other local government officials, designated Nueva Ecija as the national impact zone (NIZ) for dairy buffalo development.

Part of the template for development was the formation of dairy cooperatives in traditional nondairy communities.

Since then, the growth of a dairy economy in Nueva Ecija has been impressive, according to a PCC research team.

Farm experts Liza Battad, Wilma del Rosario, Sonia Pol, Arline del Barrio and Honorato Baltazar compiled their documentation of the process in a paper, ?Intensifying Village-level Carabao-based Dairy Enterprise Development in Nontraditional Dairy Communities,? that won first prize in the recent National Research Symposium of the Bureau of Agricultural Research.

?In seven years, the total volume of milk produced in Nueva Ecija by the cooperatives was 1,741,163.71 million liters,? said Del Rosario, who is the coordinator of NIZ program and member of the team.

Producers? income

The gross income of milk producers reached P62.7 million, she said, which benefited at least 1,300 farmers.

A thousand purebred dairy water buffaloes, which were loaned out by PCC, produced 3,250 calves (1,614 are females and 1,636 are males).
The buffaloes yield more milk than the carabao.

?Each of the buffalo given by PCC is paid in kind,? Del Rosario said.

If an animal dies from neglect, the contribution of the farmer is surrendered to PCC, she said.

Dairy farmers average five liters of milk harvest each day. Priced initially at P32 a liter, a farmer earns P180 a day or P44,833 for 300 days.

?What was important was that the farmers had daily cash money,? Del Rosario said.

In 2002, the farmers formed the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives (Nefedcco), which helps process pasteurized milk, lacto-juice (fruit-flavored milk), green milk (mixed with pandan and moringa extracts), kesong puti (cottage cheese), and milk bars, in plants stationed in Barangay San Ricardo in Talavera town.

The federation reported a gross income of P3,655,422 from 2002 to 2008, from its label, Cremeria Nueva Ecija.

In addition to the existing dairy cooperatives in Nueva Ecija, Talavera-entrepreneurs Danilo Fausto and Jaime Ramos have helped boost the carabao-dairy industry in the province.

Fausto, owner of the DVF Dairy Farm, markets several carabao milk products, while Ramos takes care 45 adult purebred dairy-type buffaloes that earns him between P500,000 and P1.3 million in annual sales.

Their success in dairy farming is now becoming a model for other entrepreneurs in Nueva Ecija.

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