Aroma of success: In Ilocos Norte, DOLE-assisted rice coffee production generates jobs, perks-up income

Date Posted: February 28th, 2015 06:50 AM

“It is the emptiness”, so goes a Chinese proverb, “that makes the cup useful.”

For BAGNOS (Bassit a Ganansia Naurnong Omado Sanikua) Multi-purpose Cooperative, the yearning to succeed in its fledgling coffee-making business has always been an ardent wish. With ingenuity, dedication, research, teamwork, and linkage, it brewed the right formula for a lucrative enterprise.

BAGNOS Multi-purpose Cooperative, based in Banna, Ilocos Norte, is a recipient of the Department of Labor and Employment Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (DILEEP) under the Kabuhayan component.

“We are happy with the concerted efforts of BAGNOS and our partner agencies that gave form and substance to the DILEEP, the DOLE’s contribution to the national goal of attaining inclusive growth through job generation and poverty reduction,” said Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz about the cooperative.

“Nurture your project. Let it further grow and bear fruits. You have the potential to do well in the market, being a technology-driven, resource-based, and sustainable project,” Baldoz said in commending BAGNOS for its stirring spirit of convergence.

BAGNOS serves as one of the DOLE’s models in enabling an existing livelihood to be transformed into a community enterprise.

Teamwork, fortified

“BAGNOS members really started from scratch. The idea of putting up this coffee-making business was borne out of the proverbial “do what you can with what you have; where you are,” said Regional Director Grace Ursua of the Department of Labor and Employment-Regional Office 1 in explaining the beginnings of the cooperative.

Amelia Bautista, the project of manager of BAGNOS, says the cooperative’s drive to succeed was the intrinsic values of teamwork, solidarity, discipline, and perseverance of its members.

“Plus, concocting rice coffee is an age-old tradition in Banna, so we thought: “Why not take advantage of this townsfolk practice?” she said.

It also helped that BAGNOS has access to sources of raw materials. Banna has 12,800 hectares of agricultural land planted to rice, with annual yield of 5.25 tons per hectare during the first cropping and 40 percent for the second cropping. Also, it is engaged in palay trading. In addition, its adjacent barangays—Sinamar, Tabtabagan, and Binacag—produce three tons of soya beans per hectare out of 50 hectares planted to soya, while just a few kilometers away are the towns of Solsona and Dingras, Ilocos Norte’s biggest rice producers.

On its own, BAGNOS stands out for its good management practices which it consistently uses in its credit and savings, goat raising, agricultural inputs, and butchering cum meat processing projects. Proofs of its consistent drive for excellence are awards and recognition from the Cooperative Development Authority, Department of Agrarian Reform, Landbank of the Philippines, and the Local Government Unit of Banna.

The DOLE took notice of these ‘advantages’ when it subjected BAGNOS to its rigid standards in the selection of beneficiaries for its livelihood program.

From the field to the cup

The making of Banna coffee is an intricate, but passion-filled, process. A quality control personnel checks every production phase to avoid waste, systematize workflow, and ensure product quality. The process starts from the selection of hybrid rice grains.

Bautista said she and 15 other women members are involved in production, while four male members operate the equipment which the DOLE gave. “We consume an average of 300 kilos of rice a week to meet demand,” she said.

The rice is roasted for two hours in the roasting machine to turn it into golden brown.  “Never overcook the rice, or else your coffee will taste like charcoal,” the project manager said, by way of a tip.

The roasted rice is allowed to cool for an hour before it is finely powdered by a grinding machine, then put into the cooling machine where it stays for 24 hours to remove moisture.

Finally, the powder is packed into bottles of 300 or 420 grams; sachets of 125, 250, 300 and 450 grams, and in 3-in-1 packets. Shortly after, an all natural, healthy, caffeine-free, and aromatic coffee is ready to be delivered to the market.

“Banna Rice Coffee Blend is considered a good remedy for gas pain, ulcer, and liver problems. Rice has fiber, Vitamin B, protein and carbohydrate,” Bautista said.

In addition to its rice coffee, BAGNOS also produces Banna Blend with soya, which Bautista said offers more nutrition because soya is known for its high protein content, vitamins, minerals, fibers, and “iso-flavones” useful in preventing osteoporosis and controlling menopausal disorders.

Brewing the right formula

Organized on 28 October 2000, BAGNOS started as a small credit facility and consumer store with 39 members and with a measly capital of P4, 457.

On 22 January 2008, it received a DOLE assistance of P895,500 for its rice coffee production. Over the last several years, the venture prospered and on 24 July 2014, the DOLE Regional Office 1 infused another fresh financial assistance in the amount of P780,620.00.

Apart from the financial support, the DOLE brought together the services of other agencies like DTI, DAR, DOST, DA, NFA, LBP, provincial government of Ilocos Norte, and the municipal government of Banna, which provided the cooperative with full technical and marketing support.

From the town to the world

BAGNOS has turned a tradition into an enterprise that has created employment for locals. The rice coffee has also brought pride for Banna because of the product’s popularity. The municipal government has adopted the DOLE-assisted Banna Rice Coffee Blend as its One-Town-One-Product (OTOP), thus, adding more value to the product and eventually making it one of the tourist attractions in the province.

Registered with the Food and Drug Authority, Banna Rice Coffee Blend is very competitive, owing to its quality and price. Leading groceries, shops and stores in Ilocos Norte and Vigan City, Ilocos Sur sell the product, while OFWs in Hawaii, Spain, and London have been bringing abroad Banna Blend by volume.

The cooperative is currently working on a research to improve the 3-in-1 coffee, one of their newest variations, resulting from their continuous value-adding efforts.

As of calendar year 2014, the cooperative’s assets stand at P3 million, P50,000 of which serves as working capital for the rice coffee production project. In the same year, BAGNOS recorded sales of P1.7 million.

BAGNOS’ rice coffee production business now engages 20 workers, five of whom are Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries, who receive wage of P300 per day. It also employs five machine operators with a daily rate of P350; and 50 sellers who, paid on commission basis, earn as much as P500 to P1,200 per month.

“The production workers and machine operators are already enrolled with CARD, a micro-finance institution, for their micro-insurance. On the other hand, the current 315 cooperative members benefit from the project through dividends,” Bautista explained.

‘Let’s drink to that!”

“We have nothing but all gratitude for the DOLE, the LGU of Banna, DTI and DAR for their assistance and support.  Without their help we will not be able create many opportunities out of rice coffee which was just prepared in our homes for our own consumption,” Bautista said.

“Through its livelihood and extra-assistance, the DOLE has paved the way for the establishment of an enabling environment and support network for our project’s success and sustainability,” she ended.

END/Arly Sta. Ana-Valdez/Gerry S. Rubio

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