BIG SAVINGS: He feeds his shrimps with Kuhol!

Shrimps love to nibble at the flesh of the Golden apple snail or Kuhol.

A former seaman who turned to prawn farming was honored in May 1994 as Outstanding Fish Farmer, receiving a P10,000 cash prize with a trophy during ceremonies in Malacañang.

SMALL BUT PROFITABLE – He is Redemptor Balcita who gave up his overseas work in favor of aquaculture. He operates a small prawn farm in Libertad Bajo, Sinarcahan, Misamis Occidental – 9,500 square meters to be exact – but with his practical ideas, he has been able to make a comfortable living out of it.

P200,000 PER CROPPING – When we interviewed him in April 1995, for instance, he was taking care of 75,000 prawns which he stocked on February 8. He expected to harvest them in June after a little over  four months from stocking and estimated he would gross about P200,000. That’s about the same amount he made from a similar crop he harvested previously.

SOLD ASSORTED – He sells his prawn harvest to a big exporter based in Ozamiz City. The whole batch is harvested at one time and sold on a straight basis, i.e., assorted. The going price during our interview was P220 per kilo.

He estimated that he would make a profit of more than P100,000 from his present crop. The fry cost him P7,000. The feeds will amount to P72,000. He also allocates a few thousand pesos for his own labor.

HANDS-ON FARMER – He himself does most of the work on the farm. When we arrived at his place, he was busy placing the feeds on the feeding trays strategically distributed in various locations. 

The P72,000 that he spends on feeds is considered low compared to those of other prawn growers who depend entirely on commercial feeds. The reason is that he depends largely on the golden kuhol for his feed. He disclosed that 70 percent of his prawn feed is golden kuhol while commercial feed is only 15 percent. The rest consists of natural feeds growing in the pond.

KUHOL ANY SIZE – Balcita says that the kuhol can be of any size. They are washed thoroughly before their shells area crushed. Crushing is done simply by putting them on the cement floor, covering them with gunny sack and then crushing them with a stone or similar instrument. After crushing the kuhol, they are placed in a fine net and washed in running water to remove their slime. The crushed snails are then placed in the feeding trays.

CHILDREN AS GATHERERS – He himself grows the golden kuhol. But he also buys from other gatherers who are mostly children. The children are happy because they are paid P22.45 per kerosene can.

INNOVATIVE WATER GATE – Balcita knows how to cut costs. One innovation that helped him clinch the Outstanding Fish Farmer  of the  Year award is the use of PVC pipes for draining his pond or for letting in brackish water. He pointed out that the usual water gate in most prawn ponds is made of concrete. This is quite expensive, he said. One concrete gate would easily cost him P20,000 to build. His gate made of 4-inch PVC pipes, on the other hand, costs only P1,000.

EXPANDING – Balcita has recently expanded his operation. He has leased a two-hectare pond from the Palayan ng Bayan, a project of the government, for P40,000 a year. This will not only enable him to make more money. He will be needing more golden kuhol so the children who supply him the snails will also make more money.

CATTLE TOO – He and his wife Adriana are also taking care of some broilers right beside their prawn pond now.He is into cattle raising, too. He is taking care of five cows while 13 others are dispersed to backyard raisers.

NIPA PLANTATION – He has since bought a one-hectare nipa plantation which is being managed by a friend. Every three months, he said, he gets a share of  P3,000 from the sale of nipa shingles. And he has also bought three hectares planted to coconuts and bananas.

BETTER OFF – Balcita thinks now that he is much better off as an entrepreneur than as a seaman.

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