For businesses combating a pandemic threat such as COVID-19 requires acting quickly and cooperatively. As such post, the allocation of “Fairtrade Producer Relief Fund” and the announcement of the flexibility in the use of Fairtrade Premium by Fairtrade International to support the short and long term needs of the Fairtrade farmers and workers, a Participatory Business Risk Assessment Program was conducted by Fairtrade coconut producer- Davnor Coconut Farmers Association; FLO ID 38088 in the Philippines with the support from Fairtrade NAPP. 11 Board members of the SPO were part of the program. The assessment was necessary to help the producers identify various business risks during the COVID 19 pandemic and to devise a further contingency plan of action to reduce its impact in the community and to build resilience into their businesses. It will also help the producers to reallocate the Fairtrade Premium Funds for meeting the immediate needs of the members where necessary.
During the Program a video presentation was shown on the status of COVID-19 pandemic in Mindanao through the Mindanao Regional TV, GMA Network followed by the discussion on the National Data update from the Department of Health.
Each of the participants was asked to identify how they were socially and economically affected by the pandemic. The objective was to capture the level of negative impacts caused by the crisis in the livelihoods of the farmers. As per the findings from the below responses received, all the participants were economically affected by the pandemic. Though the volume of coconut production was not affected, there was a 54% drop in the price of the nuts, from Php 8/kilo to Php 4.50/kilo when the lockdown started in March. Due to the restrictions in the movement of vehicles and goods, the members were unable to sell their Cardava bananas and a few were also unable to buy the daily essentials to support their families.
On the other hand, the participants were thankful for the aid they received from their respective local Government units and from their Fairtrade premium.
While none were infected by the virus, a participant from Sta. Cruz, Renita Maximino, reportedly had difficulty in bringing her husband to the hospital who was suffering from colon cancer due to age restrictions as both were senior citizens. Their children also could not afford to take an absence of leave from work due to limited income. Due to this, the cluster leader committed to helping Ms. Maximino in seeking the help of the Barangay (local) officials.
On a positive note, one participant Joan Cano of Tagum Cluster noted that during the pandemic there was no debt collector, so they were able to use the money to procure foods at the time of lockdown.
Romeo Gabriel of Tagum Cluster: ”We were stressed physically and emotionally. It is hard to manage our daily basic needs because of the lockdown. We had to eat banana flowers and fruits of Cardava for our meal.”
Pablo Lantigan of Sta. Cruz Cluster: ”It so hard to go to the Center of Municipality due to the lockdown and I am a senior citizen. My wife is admitted to the hospital due to high blood pressure. By God’s grace, fortunately, we live on a farm in a rural area and we have planted sweet potatoes and vegetables that will suffice for our food and because of this I also planted 300 hills of Cardava banana.”
Jovito Allares of Malita cluster: ‘‘Every one of us is affected, there were times when we had nothing to eat. We are tight on budget.”
Romeo Colina of Malita cluster: ”Everyone in Mindanao whether rich and poor is affected by the pandemic. We should obey all the rules and regulations of WHO for our health and wellness and keep praying for the safety of our family and our country.”
Trinidad Guliat of Tagum Cluster: ”As a front liner, assigned in outpost it is difficult since my family depends only on my salary.”
Aljun from Coco Davao: ”As an employee, it is so hard. I could not go home for there was no transportation and we had to stay in the office. Fortunately, we have a grocery store inside the office and the company has been supporting us so far. We strictly follow all the COVID 19 safety protocols.”
Ron Moring from Coco Davao: ”We are affected and still adjusting to follow the protocol. I was assigned the field duty and I sleep in the office.”
Jerry Godoy- Sta. Cruz cluster: ”Despite the situation today I thank God for all the support he provided through humanity. The Mayor and Governor have been supporting the community by providing relief goods. I have also planted more than 300 hills of Cardava bananas.”
A field visit was also conducted in the two farms in Tagum City to verify the effect of the pandemic among coconut farm owners.
The training was followed by 02 Project visits to monitor the implementation of the funding activities to ensure the SPOs was in total compliance with the Fairtrade NAPP COVID-19 Fund requirements
Farm # 1 – Per discussion with the farm owner (5th from left), there was a slight decrease in production but mainly due to the prolonged wet season in the early part of the year. As to the price, there was a decrease from Php 7/kilo to Php Php 5/kilo.
Farm # 2 – Based on the wife of the tenant, 4th from left, they have the same production volume but had a decrease in the price per kilo of nuts
Assessing one’s business risk profile during COVID 19 not only helps an organization to effectively allocate and utilize the support funding but also helps to assess what part of businesses needs immediate protection and where to adapt in order to tide through the tough time. The main risk arising out of the pandemic was the prolonged quarantine of the respective areas of the farmer members since this would limit their economic activities; and the price of nuts/kilo will likely reduce again. Secondly, the senior members of the association had a higher risk of getting infected due to the local transmissions. In addition, the association has excluded the said members in their health insurance program and as such there would be no assistance should they get infected or hospitalized or in the worst case lose their life.