SMC buys carabao milk in NE

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija — Local dairy producers who were heavily hit by the community quarantine as a measure against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) found an ally in a large food and beverage company which procured some PHP500,000 worth of their carabao milk.

Arnel del Barrio, executive director of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), an agency under the Department of Agriculture (DA), said that San Miguel Corporation (SMC) provided a big relief on the plight of various farmers’ cooperatives in this province as it bought the excess in their produce.

“This pandemic has really disrupted the daily source of income of dairy value chain players. That’s why the initiative of SMC is very timely. It came at the right time when dairy farmers needed it most. We are glad that in these trying times we have a national company like SMC that initiated to buy excess milk from farmers to help them ensure a sustainable income amid this crisis,” del Barrio said.

He said that SMC started the purchase on June 16.

The PCC said that dairy farmers encountered major setbacks in terms of limited access to markets following the two-month quarantine period, which resulted in almost 50% reduction of dairy farmers’ income vis-a-vis their earnings prior to the pandemic.

“By buying their excess milk, we are hoping to help not only our farmers stay in business but also get these produce to food banks and communities, addressing the growing food insecurity facing the poorest families,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said in a statement.

Del Barrio said upon the SMC initiative, the DA-PCC in this province identified dairy farmers’ cooperatives where the former can buy carabao milk.

The province is known for being one of the leading producers of carabao milk in the country with more than 1.8 million liters of milk production in 2019 based on the data from DA-PCC.

These include the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives, Catalanacan Multipurpose Cooperative Inc., Eastern Primary Multipurpose Cooperative, and Pulong Buli Multipurpose Cooperative.

The SMC, through San Miguel Foundation Inc. (SMFI), provided some PHP500,000 fund for the purchase of 25,000 sachets (PHP20 per 200ml sachet) of toned carabao’s milk, a processed product from the farmers’ milk produce.

The DA-PCC, on the other hand, assisted the farmers’ cooperatives and its designated FDA-registered milk processing plant in the transport of the required number of sachets of toned carabao’s milk to its beneficiaries.

The SMC, with the help of DA-PCC and dairy co-ops, began conducting a feeding program to distribute sachets of toned carabao’s milk to 25,000 beneficiaries—primarily vulnerable sectors particularly, children, the elderly, and front-liners of hard-hit communities in Pampanga, Bulacan, Navotas, Manila, Malabon, Cavite, Quezon City, San Juan, and Mandaluyong.

The initiative is part of SMC’s ongoing efforts to help the agriculture industry and provide basic nutritional support to disadvantaged families and communities, as the country grapples with the impact of the ongoing pandemic on the economy and on people’s welfare.

Carabao’s milk is known to be healthy and nutritious, which can help boost the body’s immunity against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

It is lower in cholesterol and higher in calcium, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and energy according to the studies conducted by DA-PCC.

Because of this, it is described as “the most complete food”, and is even used in local government health programs to prevent malnutrition.

The project, which is being undertaken by the SMFI, will also have long-term and sustainable benefits for the farmers.

Mina Abella, DA-PCC’s Head of Carabao Enterprise Development Section, said the SMC has brought into the Phase 2 of the project its packaging arm, San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Corp. (SMYPC), to utilize its technical expertise to provide research and development (R&D) assistance to DA-PCC for the sterilization of milk and link with possible manufacturers.

In a press statement, SMC President Ang said the SMC’s technical assistance will help DA-PCC to develop ways to extend the shelf-life of their carabao’s milk to 3-6 months, way beyond the current seven days.

Extended shelf life will eliminate spoilage, thus, providing carabao farmers a wider market, and even higher output and livelihood.

This collaborative R&D effort will benefit recipients of DA-PCC’s feeding program in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

With extended shelf life, sterilized milk can be distributed to children in remote areas and schools with no storage facilities. (PNA

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