Friday, February 6, 2009

Success Story in Malaybalay City: Butch Saavedra Planted Mangoes at 18 While Enrolled in College

He has a very unusual name, Irlfe Masif Saavedra. But that’s not the only unusual thing about this 44-year-old fellow from Malaybalay City in Bukidnon. Some 26 years ago, at age 18 while enrolled in a commerce course at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, he had the wisdom to plant mango trees on a 2.5-hectare farm that his parents inherited. He planted 200 mango trees from which he has been grossing as much as P1.5 million a year to this day.

He Keeps Complete Records. Also quite remarkable is the fact that he keeps complete records of his farming activities. That way, he knows whether he is making money or not from his projects. The records could tell him, for instance, if it is better to shift to some other crop. With the advent of computers, record keeping and analysis of farming trends are so much easier now, making farming more flexible and profitable.

Papaya Contract Grower. Since his college days, he has been engaged in a number of farm projects. One of his projects was contract growing of papaya used for processing by Del Monte. He planted the seedlings provided by Del Monte on four hectares in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. He has records to prove that the project was very profitable. Under the terms, the grower was provided with the seedlings for planting, the cost of which was deducted from the harvest. Each contract grower was given three years to produce 80 tons per hectare. If he fails to meet the quota, the contract would be terminated. The price that Del Monte paid was P4.25 per kilo.

The hybrid papaya provided by Del Monte was really a heavy yielder. Instead of three years, Saavedra, who is better known simply as Butch, produced the 80 tons in just 18 months. The total cost of production per hectare was P80,000 while the gross income was P400,000 per hectare.

Because contract growing was so profitable, a lot of applicants swamped Del Monte. But the company could not accommodate all of them. As a result, Del Monte decided to limit its contract growers and also lowered the buying price to P3.20 per kilo. That was the time Butch decided to engage in some other farm projects.

Next Into Corn and Squash. He went into corn and Suprema squash production. He also engaged in trading of vegetables, shipping squash and other products to Cebu. He had a very profitable operation in growing squash on two hectares every month. The problem at that time, however, was the shortage of hybrid Suprema seeds. He said that Suprema, a hybrid from East-West Seed Company was the preferred variety. He tried planting Preciosa, another hybrid from the same company. Preciosa was also fruitful but the eating quality was not what the consumers liked. The traders did not like it too.

All along, he was conducting his farming and trading operations in Cagayan de Oro City until 1991 when the family relocated to Malaybalay, the hometown of his wife, the former Marilen Metiam. Because he could not get enough seeds of squash for planting, he shifted his interest to hybrid ampalaya, also from East-West Seed. Up to this day, ampalaya is a major money maker for Butch.

Ampalaya in 2005. He started growing the Jade Star L and Galaxy hybrids in 2005. At first, he planted just 1,800 hills in May of 2005. The profit was very good so he planted 2,500 hills the second time in January 2006. This time, the harvest was not very good because that was a particularly hot season. The overhead sprinklers had to be in operation for two days each week, which meant that the workers could not work in the field for two days every week. Monitoring what was going on in the plantation was not possible. Oh yes, daily monitoring should be made to make sure problems that might occur could be attended to immediately.

Drip Irrigation Instead of Sprinklers. He phased out the overhead sprinklers and installed a drip irrigation system. He uprooted his plants in March and planted 4,400 hills on the same farm in May. Aside from installing drip irrigation system, he also used plastic mulch, one of the improved techniques in growing high-value crops. Instead of the usual direct seeding, he germinated his seedling in plastic trays, planting them 11 days after seeding. In that particular crop planted in May 2006, he was able to harvest 48,848 kilos which he was able to sell at P12 to P18 per kilo. He netted P557,135 from that particular crop which cost him P150,000 to produce.

From then on, he has been planting ampalaya both on his own farm as well as on rented land. He used to rent a hectare for only P6,000 a year. Now, it has gone up to P12,000, thanks to the big banana and pineapple planters who are renting most of the available farmlands. At any rate, he thinks it still pays to rent land for planting ampalaya. His schedule is to plant 2,200 hills every month to sustain year-round production. Some of them are on rented land.

Crop Rotation a Must. He observes that in some places where ampalaya is grown successively, the yield tends to decrease. In that case, he has to do crop rotation. He is planning to plant next sweet pepper hybrids from East-West. One such hybrid is Improved Majesty which is very prolific. It is much better than the original Majesty which has thin skin and is easily damaged during transport. The Improved Majesty has thicker skin and has longer shelf life and better transport quality. Sweet pepper is also a good money maker. It is in demand not only in restaurants and households but also by fish canning factories.

One Has to beWell-Focused. Butch believes that when you are in farming for money, you have to be well focused. He relates that in 1997, he and his wife engaged in Ukay-ukay, the business of selling second hand clothes imported from Korea. At times the returns are good but at other times it could be a losing proposition, especially when the batch you buy are not the kind the local buyers want. They had to travel from town to town starting as early as 4 o’clock in the morning. The business was so hectic and time consuming, Butch no longer had time to plant his favorite vegetables.

They eventually gave up the Ukay-ukay business and concentrated on the things they love and enjoy most to do. Now Butch devotes his full time to farming while Marilen attends to her thriving grocery store. Butch knows that farming can be a profitable undertaking if one treats it as an honest-to-goodness business enterprise. That is keeping accurate records and keeping abreast of the latest developments in production and marketing.☻

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