MANILA: San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is set to buy fresh carabao’s milk from farmer-cooperatives struggling to cope with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, to be donated to poor communities and food banks in and around Metro Manila.
As Covid-19 continues to disrupt supply chains, the smaller carabao-based dairy farmers have been left with very little or no buyer for their perishable produce. And because dairy is a daily crop, most of them are forced to resort to dumping excess milk.
“It’s heart-breaking. There is so much excess milk that goes to waste, instead of getting them to where they are most needed. 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 to help address the growing food insecurity facing the poorest families,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang said.
The initiative is the company’s latest response to support the agricultural sector through the crisis.
Ang said the company will start identifying farmer-cooperatives it will buy carabao’s milk from, who will then identify poor communities and feeding centers they can deliver their produce.
SMC is targeting to have the milk sent to hard-hit communities and feeding centers in Bulacan, Navotas, and various localities around Metro Manila.
The company hopes to start rolling out the program soon with the help of the government through the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Meanwhile, SMC further expands the Covid-19 relief efforts, which includes some PHP487 million worth of food donations as of May 12.
SMC’s total Covid-19 response at the time had reached PHP13.08 billion.
“We believe this will be a big help to many of our farmers, who are struggling and looking for ways and markets to sell their produce. At the same time, it will also help keep many of our less-fortunate citizens– children and the elderly–nourished and in good health,” Ang said.
Carabao milk is known to be healthy and nutritious, with high protein and lower lactose and cholesterol levels.
At the start of the quarantine, SMC had vowed to support the agricultural sector by buying more local produce to sustain farm incomes and ensure continued food production and food security.
It encouraged local farmers to increase the production of rice, corn, cassava, coconut oil, pork, chicken, and other products.
Last week, SMC announced that it had bought 69 million kilos of corn from various corn producers throughout the country, providing relief for farmers unable to move their crops.
Corn is a raw material for the company’s feeds operations, which in turn ensures the availability of poultry and fresh meats in the coming months.
Before it purchased the 69 million kilos of corn, it had also bought some 92,000 kilos of corn from farmer-cooperatives in Central Luzon and Pangasinan, identified by the DA. It is expecting to buy more corn from farmers from Camarines Sur.
The company has also partnered with the DA to turn a number of its Petron Gas stations into outlets for farmers’ produce under the agency’s “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” program.
The program gives farmers access to various markets in highly-populated areas in the city and at the same time, it allows customers easier and more convenient way to purchase fresh farm goods such as fruits and vegetables, without venturing too far or going to markets that tend to have a high concentration of people.
SMC also supported the medical community through donations of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing equipment, PCR test kits, personal protective equipment, disinfecting alcohol, and free use of its operating tollways.
The company also launched what has now become the largest food donation drive in history, distributing rice, canned goods, poultry, meat, biscuits, dairy, and coffee products to local government units and needy communities.
It has also donated flour to LGUs for local bakers to make into free or discounted bread.
SMC has also paid its obligations to the government, in the form of taxes and concession and contractual fees, on time and in full, despite the offer of deferred payment, to help ensure the availability of funds for Covid-19 response.