Nueva Ecija Farm­ers grow 1,200 tons of CU­CUM­BER for UNILEVER

Agriculture - - Front Page -

MORE THAN 300 small­holder farm­ers in Nueva Ecija are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of a new project of a multi­na­tional com­pany to source its re­quire­ments of some 1,200 tons of im­ma­ture cu­cum­ber fruits for its food dress­ings busi­ness.

The multi­na­tional firm is Unilever, which man­u­fac­tures Lady’s Choice prod­ucts like sand­wich spreads and other dress­ings. The farmer ben­e­fi­cia­ries, on the other hand, are farm­ers from Bongabon and Rizal towns in Nueva Ecija who are cur­rently har­vest­ing their crop from about 80 hectares in the two towns. Aside from the farm­ers, fruit pick­ers are also ben­e­fit­ing from project. Ev­ery other day, they har­vest the im­ma­ture fruits which are best suited for pro­cess­ing into gherkins needed for mak­ing food dress­ings.

Su­per­vis­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project is Sun­rich Man­u­fac­tur­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, a long­time part­ner in sim­i­lar projects in­volv­ing tamarind and taro (gabi) pro­duc­tion for the multi­na­tional com­pany’s sini­gang mix prod­ucts. Sun­rich is re­spon­si­ble for fi­nanc­ing the in­puts like seeds needed by the farm­ers who plant a hectare or even less. They plant the Puc­cini va­ri­ety dis­trib­uted in the Philip­pines by Al­lied Botan­i­cal Cor­po­ra­tion. One hectare re­quires 30 packs of seeds cost­ing PhP 19,650. The amount will be de­ducted from the farmer’s har­vest.

The com­pany does not only see to it that the crop is grown us­ing good agri­cul­tural prac­tices, it is also re­spon­si­ble for pro­cess­ing the har­vest into pick­les that are ready for use by Unilever in its var­i­ous food dress­ings. Sun­rich has world class man­u­fac­tur­ing plants in La­guna and in Tar­lac. To make sure for ef­fi­cient im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project, farm lead­ers des­ig­nated by Sun­rich are closely work­ing with the farm­ers, co­or­di­nat­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties.

It is a win-win sit­u­a­tion for the three play­ers in the pro­gram—the farm­ers, Sun­rich, and Unilever. The cu­cum­ber project provides an ad­di­tional source of in­come for the farm­ers af­ter har­vest­ing their onion crop. Plant­ing the cu­cum­ber crop is from early to mid-March. Prac­ti­cally no ad­di­tional fer­til­izer is needed be­cause of the resid­ual fer­til­ity of the soil af­ter har­vest­ing the onion. As early as 25 to 30 days af­ter seed­ing, the first har­vest can be done and will con­tinue for a to­tal of 10 or more har­vests. The Puc­cini va­ri­ety is partheno­carpic, mean­ing it will pro­duce fruit even without male flow­ers for pol­li­na­tion. It is a high-yield­ing va­ri­ety with a very short ges­ta­tion pe­riod.

It is also a win-win sit­u­a­tion for Sun­rich be­cause it is an­other source of rev­enue. And for Unilever, it is as­sured of enough sup­ply of high-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als for its food dress­ings.

The 1,200 tons tar­geted for pro­duc­tion this year is just the start. It is pos­si­ble that in the suc­ceed­ing sea­sons, big­ger vol­umes will be re­quired for pos­si­ble ex­port of the fin­ished prod­ucts.

Dur­ing the me­dia tour of the cu­cum­ber farm last April in Rizal town, of­fi­cials of Unilever, Sun­rich, farm lead­ers, and farm­ers were on hand to an­swer ques­tions from the jour­nal­ists. These in­cluded Ron­dell Torres, Unilever’s se­nior man­ager for sus­tain­able busi­ness; May Samia, sales man­ager of Sun­rich; Gla­dys Var­gas, qual­ity as­sur­ance of­fi­cial of Sun­rich; Ra­mon Palomo, a farmer leader; and oth­ers.

Unilever has been work­ing closely with its sup­ply chain network that in­cludes farm­ers and plan­ta­tion own­ers, pro­ces­sors, re­fin­ers, and traders of raw ma­te­ri­als. Aside from cu­cum­ber, Unilever has lo­cally sourced other crops that in­clude mango, straw­berry, pineap­ple, and jack­fruit for its ice cream cat­e­gory, and tamarind, turmeric, taro, pep­per, onions, and tomato for its food busi­ness. To date, Unilever has en­gaged over 1,700 small­holder farm­ers in its chain and is look­ing for­ward to reach­ing more lives through its sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture agenda.

The cu­cum­ber har­vesters at work.

Palomo briefs vis­it­ing me­dia per­sons about the cu­cum­ber project.

Vic­to­ri­ano Din­gle, farm leader in Rizal town.

Pi­chon Gar­cia of Sun­rich, Alexis Tianxi of Unilever, and farmer leader Ro­man Palomo check­ing har­vested cu­cum­ber.

Gla­dys Var­gas, qual­ity con­trol of­fi­cer of Sun­rich, hold­ing an over ma­ture cu­cum­ber not suit­able for mak­ing sweet rel­ish.

Ron­der show­ing two sliced cu­cum­ber fruits. The smaller one is good for pick­ling while the big­ger one is no longer suit­able for mak­ing sweet rel­ish.

The Puc­cini va­ri­ety does not need any trel­lis. It crawls on the ground.

Chow time for the har­vesters.

Big truck for haul­ing the cu­cum­ber har­vest.

Work­ers car­ry­ing har­vested cu­cum­ber in sacks.

Cu­cum­ber in sacks ready for de­liv­ery to the pro­cess­ing plant.

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