That extra dark brown sugar sweetens lives in Antique
Farmers in Laua-an, Antique, have long relied on muscovado sugar and other agricultural products for livelihood. Yet there was hardly enough income for a decent living. In official figures, Laua-an residents are the third poorest in the province of Antique. Five out of every 10 residents are poor in this farming municipality.
Laua-an Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LMPC) runs its local muscovado production and operates its own processing plant. But product quality was inconsistent and packaging was inferior. With a lack in resources, the processing plant seldom operates in full capacity.
Business was not doing well. Most farmers remained poor.
When LMPC sought help from PEF in 2013, the first advice it got was to improve its packaging. With assistance from other partners such as Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, and Southern Partners Fair Trade Center, the cooperative was able to develop the new “Pahinis” packaging, showing the uniqueness of the local muscovado.
Product quality was next. Farmers were trained to learn new techniques in harvesting and processing, eliminating impurities from their sugar that often decreases the selling price. Members were further trained on how to make the processing plant more efficient.
With these efforts, sugar quality improved, resulting to the growth in market demand as farmers gained more control in setting a good price for their products.
Today, a third of Laua-an’s sugarcane farmers enjoy a steadier livelihood. The living conditions of the people started to improve, enough to even start sending their children to school. Sugar, and indeed life, is now sweeter than before.