1,200 Tons Of Gherkins To Be Produced By Smallholder Farmers In Nueva Ecija For Unilever

More than 300 smallholder farmers in Nueva Ecija are reaping the benefits of a new project of a multinational company to source its requirements of some 1,200 tons of immature cucumber fruits for its food dressings business.

The multinational firm is Unilever which manufactures Lady’s Choice products like sandwich spreads and other food dressings. The farmer beneficiaries, on the other hand, are farmers from Bongabon and Rizal towns in Nueva Ecija who are currently harvesting their crop on about 80 hectares in the two towns. Aside from the farmers, fruit pickers are also benefiting from project. Every other day, they harvest the immature fruits which are best suited for processing into gherkins needed for making food dressings.

Pichon Garcia, farm leader Ramon Palomo and Unilever’s Rondell Torres inspecting newly harvested Puccini cucumber in Rizal, Nueva Ecija.
Pickers harvest the fruits every other day. They, too, benefit from the cucumber project of Unilever.
Farm workers with their load of newly harvested cucumber in 50-kg sacks.

Supervising the implementation of the project is Sunrich Manufacturing Corporation, a long time partner in similar projects involving tamarind and taro (gabi) production for the multinational company’s “sinigang” products.

Sunrich is responsible for financing the inputs like seeds needed by the farmers who plant a hectare or even less. They plant the Puccini variety distributed in the Philippines by Allied Botanical Corporation. One hectare requires 30 packs of seeds costing P19,650. The amount will be deducted from the farmer’s harvest.

Sunrich does not only see to it that the crop is grown using good agricultural practices, it is also responsible for processing the harvest into pickles that are ready for use by Unilever in its various food dressings. Sunrich has world class manufacturing plants in Laguna and in Tarlac. To make sure for efficient implementation of the project, farm leaders designated by Sunrich are closely working with the farmers, coordinating their activities.

The size of the fruit for making pickles required by Unilever is very precise. The smaller fruit shown here by Ron Torres is the right size. The bigger one, lower, is too big for Unilever’s purposes.
Gladys Vargas, quality assurance officer of Sunrich Manufacturing, was also present in the field tour.

It is a win-win situation for the three players in the program – the farmers, Sunrich and Unilever. The cucumber project provides an additional source of income for the farmers after harvesting their onion crop. Planting the cucumber crop is from early to mid-March. Practically no additional fertilizer is needed because of the residual fertility in the soil after harvesting the onion crop. As early as 25 to 30 days after seeding, the first harvest can be done and will continue for a total of 10 or more harvests. The Puccini variety is parthenocarpic, meaning it will produce fruits even without male flowers to pollinate them. It is a high-yielding variety with a very short gestation period.

Ramon Palomo, farm leader, briefed the visiting journalists.

It is a win-win situation for Sunrich because it is also another source of revenue. And for Unilever, it is assured of enough supply of high-quality materials for its food dressings.

The 1,200 tons targeted for production this year is just the start. It is possible that in the succeeding seasons, bigger volumes would be required for possible export of the finished products.

Pichon Garcia of Sunrich Manufacturing, Alexis Tianxi, procurement manager of Unilever, and Ramon Palomo, farm leader, checking newly harvested Puccini fruits.
Chow time for the fruit pickers.
Your Blogger, Zac B. Sarian, at left and Anselmo Roque of Inquirer at right. Reunion after more than 10 years of not seeing each other. He operates in Nueva Ecija.

During the media tour of the cucumber farm in Rizal town, officials of Unilever, Sunrich, farm leaders and farmers were on hand to answer questions from the journalists. These included Rondell Torres, Unilever’s senior manager for sustainable business, May Samia, sales manager of Sunrich, Gladys Vargas, quality assurance executive of Sunrich, Ramon Palomo, farmer leader, and others.

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