San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) Better World Diliman community center sold over half a million kilos of excess farm produce in just six months of operation, benefitting 4,500 farmers all over Luzon, company president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang, reported.

Better World Diliman, the third community center under SMC’s flagship “Better World” communities program, serves as a ready-market for excess produce bought from farmers at better-than-farmgate prices, and sold to consumers and resellers for low prices. It utilizes unused SMC properties and leverages on partnerships with non-profit organizations to help address various societal issues.

 “Our farmers work extremely hard, and they are among the most affected by this crisis. At the height of the pandemic, we saw the problem of excess produce that resulted in food waste and lost capital for our farmers. So we thought to help them by providing them direct access to consumers through our Kadiwa stores at Petron gas stations, and eventually, Better World Diliman,” Ang related.

“Helping them sell their excess produce, ensuring they benefit directly from their hard work, and helping them sustain their livelihood, are meaningful ways we can continue to support our farmers at this time,” he added.

Ang also lauded the company’s partner, social enterprise Rural Rising Philippines, which runs the day-to-day operations of Better World Diliman, for its dedication to helping farmers.

Rural Rising works with cooperatives all over Luzon, from Benguet province to Quezon, to bring their excess produce to the center.

“With their efforts and the support of our San Miguel Foundation, Better World Diliman was able to buy over half a million kilos of fresh produce in just six months. That is a lot of food that would have gone to waste, and a lot of income that would have been lost. We’re committed to continue helping our farmers every way we can. Better World Diliman is here for them, and we will continue to find even more ways to help support our agricultural sector,” Ang said.

As a marketplace for excess produce, Better World Diliman aims to increase farm incomes, reduce food waste, and boost farmers’ capacity through agri-preneurship training programs.

Produce bought from farmers are either sold on-site to consumers and resellers, bought by donors, or are donated to SMC’s Better World Tondo food bank and learning center in Manila.

Apart from selling fresh produce, Better World Diliman is also exploring other ready-made products it can sell.  With technical assistance on product development from SMC’s Packaging Group, Better World Diliman recently pilot-tested offering black and red heirloom rice under the Better World Diliman brand to SMC employees.

SMC also provides transportation, heavy-duty freezers, and machines to maintain the freshness of farmers’ produce.

SMC has two other sustainable community centers. Its first center in Tondo aims to reduce hunger and malnutrition in the poorest districts of Manila. Better World EDSA, meanwhile, addresses the need for access to low-cost RT-PCR testing.

SMC ramped up its purchase of local produce throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a lifeline for farmers affected by stricter quarantine guidelines. In November 2020, it reported its highest volume of purchase for corn, at 524,155 metric tons. It also doubled its cassava purchase and continued to support training programs in North Cotabato to boost capacity in the area.

SMC also bought over 5,000 liters of excess pasteurized carabao milk. These were all distributed to vulnerable communities in Metro Manila and Luzon provinces. Its partnership with the Department of Agriculture’s Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program meanwhile gave Metro Manila residents access to fresh produce through its large-network of Petron stations.

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