From 5 to 9,146 members: A Story of how Piña Production of the Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative Became a Success

Date Posted September 2016.

The Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LPMPC) in Labo, Camarines Norte boasts of how its piña production turned into a success after starting with just 5 members and P5,000 capital.

This cooperative provides assistance to members in order to establish their own pineapple farm through contract-growing, partnership and financing where the coop acts as market consolidator of the farmers’ produce. As of 31 December 2015, its members grew to 9,146 composing of farmers, fisher-folks, small & medium entrepreneurs and public & private employees. Presently, the cooperative takes pride in its total assets of P96,973,935.00. Mr. Mario M. Espeso, LPMPC General Manager, expressed gratitude to PhilFIDA for encouraging and helping start the cooperative.

Mr. Mario M. Espeso, the general manager of LPMPC, shared that it all started in 2006 when the handwoven piña cloth and handmade paper project was established through the support of PhilFIDA and other government agencies. This project generated household enterprise and employment among family farmers and students including jail inmates.

The machine decortication of pineapple leaves also started in 2006 with the objective of providing pineapple farmers additional income from the fiber derived from pineapple leaves. Family farmers were formed into group or cluster and underwent skills training and served as contract supplier of pineapple fiber to the cooperative.

One breakthrough happened to LPMPC was when it was visited in the year 2012 by Ananas Annam, a company that developed a non-woven material called “Piñatex” produced from the fibers of pineapple leaves. This material is being produced into leather which serves as a better alternative to leather made from animals. With this, the demand for pineapple fiber increased with a forecast of 12,884 kilos for the year 2016 that are to be supplied by the cooperative.

The total production area for pineapple in the whole of Camarines Norte is 2,630 hectares with 2,701 farmers working in them. Added to this, there are still 6,303 hectares for expansion with potential annual fiber production of 638,540.30 kilos. At the end of 2015, there were 3,757.91 kilos of deco-pineapple fiber sold by the cooperative.

Mr. Espeso reported that at present, there are 164 farmer members of the cooperative who are engaged in pineapple production ranging from 0.5 to 5 hectares. 122 hectares are owned by its members while 13 hectares are owned by the cooperative. Three key production areas are the municipalities of Basud, Labo and San Vicente. The cooperative’s existing fleet are 14 single decorticating machines and 1 double tandem machine which are provided by DTI and PhilFIDA. 8 machines are already deployed in different areas but only 4 are in full operation. The cooperative is conducting series of basic skills training on the decortication of pineapple leaves in different municipalities.

The LPMPC continues to meet with pineapple growers and other stakeholders to inform them of the coop’s projects and encourage them to become partners as suppliers of pineapple leaves or fibers. It also intends to increase the coop buying price on pineapple leaves to attract farm owners to sell their leaves and more contract suppliers to the cooperative. The present incentive and financial assistance being extended to contract workers and suppliers are also being reevaluated for possible increase to encourage them further to produce more fibers.