New SnT Post Banner
Vol. XXV, 3rd Quarter
July to September 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Right Blend

When Sarah Dabucon went back to Barangay [village] Sinnamar in 1996, the vast rural terrain looks unchanged.  But she must have watched around the mostly rain-fed agricultural fields with fresh eyes. Just a year away from Mariano Marcos State University with a degree in agriculture, Dabucon hewed at the tall stack of odds that not many others saw sprawling all over.

The village is about 30 minutes drive from the capital of Banna town in Ilocos Norte, where Dabucon lived almost all her life. The town itself, with 11,854 population, is about 11 hours by bus north of Manila. After graduation, she hoped to land a job that’s related to her education.  But the job market was tight, prompting Dabucon to return home in 1996 and start rice farming. The choice to plant rice wasn’t surprising. It’s Banna’s top crop followed by corn and legumes like peanut, mungbean, and soybean.  She was among the cooperators of MMSU’s rice dispersal program that provided certified rice seeds of varieties that experts recommended.

But rice farming didn’t make life easy, and she have three children to raise as a single parent.

Farmers plant only during the rainy season.

She started a business called SCUFYND, which represents the initials of Dabucon and her children—Sarah Conception Ugot, Fayez, Yazeen, and Nazer Dabucon.  She went on to diversify into peanut and soybean.

Producing soybean coffee was more than a commercial decision.  “I have proven that soybean can be considered a miracle food.  Soybean helped my son Yazeen, who had a congenital heart disease to be able to walk by regularly drinking soya milk”, Dabucon explained.  She also sold soya milk, soya burger, and soya puto, among others.

“I processed peanut due to the availability of raw materials in our community.  My other [peanut-based] products also included salted and sweetened peanut.  Peanut is known as food for the brain”, she added.

SCUFYND’s peanut butter and soybean coffee were no match to dominant commercial brands.

But when Dabucon followed the advice of Dr. Carmelo Esteban, director of MMSU’s extension office to produce rice coffee, things started to turn upbeat.  In 2003, she acquired basic roasting equipment and two bags of rice that all cost P5,000.

The family worked on the new product right in their backyard.  A 50-kilo bag of rice can be roasted into 48 kilos of rice coffee.  The initial packaging material was “ordinary plastic bag”, and later plastic bottles with “computer printout” label.

The bigger challenge was not just to look for the right market.  Apparently she has to also create one.  Friends in MMSU were sought for help in marketing the product, and the school’s extension office staff and visitors were the first customers.  She sold in bulk, and the MMSU network repacked the rice coffee in plastic bottles.

The product was moving.  But she didn’t have the technology to raise production efficiency and improve the looks. 

But Dr. Esteban didn’t give up on Dabucon.  In 2005, he helped Dabucon to avail of an assistance package being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology Region 1 called Science and Technology Enterprise Assistance Mechanism through the Municipal Science and Technology Program [STEAM-MSTAP] funded by the Technology Application and Promotion Institute, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

Through the program, Dabucon acquired production equipment such as mechanical roaster, grinder, stainless preparation table, heat gun, stainless basins and containers, and display cabinet.  The Packaging R&D Center of the Industrial Technology Development Institute, another DOST agency, also designed a new label that included nutrition analysis and a barcode.

SCUFYND’s “equity” under the P234,000 DOST-TAPI assistance package was “construction of a dedicated production area”.  The amount is payable in three years. 

The new-look rice coffee vastly improved the product’s customer appeal.  Soon after, SCUFYND’s rice coffee and soybean coffee were sitting on the shelves of the 5 Sisters Superstore, Laoag City’s biggest supermarket. Other commercial establishments followed.

Wholesale prices of rice coffee, Dabucon explains, depend on volume such as P25 [150g], P50 [300g], P65 [400g], and P130 [1kg].  She also sells the soya coffee variants at P50 [250g] and P65 [350g].

SCUFYND’s annual production volume went up from 1,152 kg to 3,885 kg—more than 200 percent increase.  Average annual net income also climbed from P84,000 before the DOST intervention to P289,806.  It now has three regular workers.

The technology intervention obviously helped SCUFYND.  But another factor might have provided the right blend.  “Rice coffee, which is charred in the roasting process is known to be good against stomach aches and other disorders because it is believed to have charcoal-like property that absorbs toxins.  Soybean, on the other hand, has anti-cancer properties due to its isoflavin contents.  Both drinks are good substitutes to coffee due to absence of caffeine that is bad to people experiencing heart palpitations”, Dabucon explained.

“We now have better food on the table.  The kids are in school and I am now continuing the construction of our own house.  Besides, I now have a display area right in front of my new house”, the 43-year old added.

A practical business philosophy has taken Dabucon to a winning path so far.  “Plan, pray, and work for it”, she quipped. That, in a sense, translates to focus, hard work, and grit.