Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sojourn In Zambales

We visited Zambales in late December 2008 where we met Johnson Huang, a Taiwanese who operates the Green Healthy Vegetables Farm in Brgy. Balaybay, Castillejos. He started growing nontraditional vegetables in 1998 on a one-hectare rented land for P10,000 a year. He grew lettuce, cucumber and other vegetables that the local farmers did not grow. He was brought to the Philippines by an elder brother who had a factory in the Subic Bay Free Port. However, instead of helping his brother in his business, he opted to become a vegetable grower in the once-sleepy barrio of Balaybay.

What Does He Have Today? Aside from the original one hectare, he has rented since 2002 a 10-hectare farm where he has more than 150 greenhouse for growing various vegetables, culinary herbs and other high-value crops. The other high-value crops include calamansi, Red Lady papaya, melons, sweet corn and sugarcane for chewing and fresh juice. Starting 2009, he is renting a 5-hectare farm for additional production of sugarcane.

Sugarcane for Juice Is Profitable. Johnson Huang has discovered that there is money in sugarcane juice. He sells his fresh juice to diners in his farm at P40 per 500 cc glass. He has a stainless juicer in the farm. He also sells the canes to Manila. In the last two years, he planted just half hectare, harvesting the canes 8 months after planting. The yield is 40 to 50 tons per half hectare. In 2 months the whole crop is sold out. (By the way, Adela Ang of Edsa Garden House in Quezon City, has been looking to no avail possible suppliers of sugarcane for extracting fresh juice. Her contact No. is 09178120782.)

Spinach Is Fast to Grow and Profitable. Of the many crops that Johnson grows, Spinach is a good money maker. He delivers 300 kilos to Manila (Puregold and Shopwise) every day. He grows spinach in greenhouses 5 meters wide and 24 meters long. He does not sow the seeds in plastic trays. He just broadcasts them over prepared plots. Before broadcasting, he mixes the seeds with fine soil. This way, they are better distributed. He harvests about 150 kilos of spinach from one greenhouse only 20 days after broadcasting. His price is P30 per kilo. Cost of seeds is P75 per greenhouse. Ten sacks of old chicken manure is applied before planting. Overhead watering system is used.

Not Enough Supply. When one has established his reliability in terms of steady supply, good quality and reasonable price, there is no problem in marketing one’s produce. Johnson just sells to supermarkets and hotels in the Subic area, and in Metro Manila. He sells all his 1 to 2 tons daily mostly to Shopwise and Puregold. He says purchasing reps of SM have talked to him three times so he could supply them also. He could not accommodate them for the meantime.

Johnson Serves Good Food. Friends have convinced Johnson Huang to put up a dining place right in his farm so they could have a taste of his produce. Our fare during our visit: steamed spinach, steamed camote tops (a variety developed in Taiwan for shoot production), split cherry tomato with dikiam, lettuce, pakchoy, cucumber, sweet corn (no rice), fresh sugarcane juice, dimsum cooked Taiwanese way, stir-fried lamb cubes, melons. Many expats and Filipinos from the Subic free port go there to observe the farming operations and to eat fresh foods grown without chemical pesticides. For details contact Joy Pimentel, Johnson’s assistant at 0920-954-6989. From Manila Healthy Green Vegetables Farm can be reached by car in about three hours or less.

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