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Monday, June 17, 2024

Beyond the bite

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How ginger farmers became Mang Inasal heroes

Mang Inasal chicken is pure delight and the thriving livelihood behind the ginger used for its marinade is equally inspiring.

A group of hardworking ginger farmers are now supplying institutional food companies while expanding their knowledge in agriculture and entrepreneurship.

Under the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) of the Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) this new breed of suppliers certainly does more than just toil the land. They have access to new knowledge, technology, and even business capital.

“FEP enables farmers to be agro-entrepreneurs, magsasaka na, businessmen pa. The goal is to empower them so that collectively they can sell their produce to institutional markets,” explains L. A. Cruzat, JFC Program Director.

The initiative was conceived by the food giant’s founder and chairman Tony Tan Caktiong. “As a food company, how can we help farmers have better income?” he once asked during a board meeting. It was not an easy question, according to L.A. nonetheless they addressed the challenge.

Assessing the problems faced by local farmers, the foundation focused on the growth potential of serving institutional markets versus regular retail. Supplying to big companies translates to higher income and a more sustainable livelihood.

Farmers can readily sell their produce to marketgoers, but difficulties arise when they supply to big food companies. “Institutional markets prefer to deal with bulk suppliers because they look for volume, quality, and timeliness of delivery,” L.A. explained.

The Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) empowers farmers with the right skill set so they can collectively sell to institutional buyers. This initiative is implemented JGF in partnership with stakeholders, for example, Ahon sa Hirap Inc. (ASHI) a microfinance NGO, worked with JGF to support the ginger farmers in Tanay, Rizal.

The AGAP Farmers’ Association is composed of 37 farmers. Initially, they have been peddling their products on their own and have been trying to find a stable market to increase their income. The training and support from FEP enabled them to produce high-quality ginger that met the standards of institutional markets like Jollibee and Mang Inasal.

“By purchasing directly from farmers, Mang Inasal can support our farmers. They have more opportunities to earn and become entrepreneurs themselves,” said Mang Inasal Business Unit Head Mike V. Castro.

The AGAP group started supplying spring onions to Jollibee in 2017, with the help of ASHI. In 2021, they expanded their products to include fresh ginger, and in 2023 they began supplying to Mang Inasal. They have delivered over 36,000 kilos of ginger to the fast food chain.

Product quality depends on different factors like the weather or problems like pests and diseases. Under the program, farmers now receive weather updates via text messages, so they can efficiently schedule the perfect time to plant, harvest, and apply fertilizer. They also benefit from volunteer coaching on post-harvest practices as well as pest and disease management given by agri experts of PUM Netherlands, a Dutch NGO.

On your next Mang Inasal visit, make sure to savor every bite. Local farmers went to great lengths for your tasty meal.

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