This year’s Masskara Festival turned more festive as Coca-Cola once again joined one of the biggest celebrations in the country. The beverage brand, through its social investment arm, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, signed partnerships with the Sugar Regulatory Administration, SIMAG Foundation, and the Philippine Sugar Research Institute (PHILSURIN) to improve the productivity and well-being of small sugar farmers.
“Coca-Cola is inclusive in growing its business by supporting the various aspects of our value chain. The Company, through the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, is looking at helping small sugar farmers improve the productivity of their farms and create better opportunities for them and their families,” said Jonah de Lumen-Pernia, Public Affairs and Communications Director of Coca-Cola Philippines.
The region is one of the key interest areas for the beverage brand as Negros is the main producer of Philippine sugar – a key ingredient in most of the company’s beverages. The small farmers are the most vulnerable stakeholders in the local sugar industry and they are in need of support.
“The Negros Region has always been an important partner of Coca-Cola over the past 100 years of presence here in the Philippines, especially the farmers who till the land and grow the sugarcane. We strive to respond to the needs of the communities where we are by providing a sustainable program that will help enable and empower them to grow,” Cecile Alcantara, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines President added.
The Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) through SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica, for the provision of water systems to augment the irrigation requirements of five block farms in Negros Occidental. Block farming is a strategy adopted by the SRA for agrarian reform beneficiaries to make sugar cane farming more efficient and less costly for the small farmers. The farmers are organized and their lands are aggregated into an integrated farming block that is more productive and input-efficient. Having a sufficient water supply will also allow the farmers to plant other crops that will sustain them during the off-milling season.
SIMAG Foundation, as represented by its president, Maria Regina Martin, also entered in a MOU with Foundation to build its capacity to offer Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)-accredited courses on Agricultural Crop Production to the farmers and their children. Through this, the farmers’ skills will be upgraded and their children will see sugarcane farming as a viable livelihood option.
A third Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the Philippine Sugar Research Institute (PHILSURIN), through PHILSURIN president, Timothy Bennett, to support research and development of high yielding sugarcane varieties and their distribution to the small farmers. The cane points will be distributed to farmers through three primary seed farms to be established in PHILSURIN-member mill areas. The provision of quality planting materials will help improve the productivity of the block farms.
“This is a manifestation of our support for the local sugar industry. Beyond purchasing, we are here to help uplift the industry and create a sweeter future together,” said de Lumen-Pernia.
Coca-Cola Philippines and the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines have also supported the province of Negros Occidental with various sustainability initiatives including the Agos program – which provides water access to upland rural communities and the Coca-Cola 5by20 Sari-sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) Program – which targets to economically empower women micro-entrepreneurs.