A former OFW who worked for five years as a construction worker in Saudi Arabia is proving that he can make more money by growing papaya and other high-value crops in Brgy. Kaingin, San Rafael, Bulacan.
He is Johnny Gatuz, 55, who worked in Saudi Arabia from 1990 to 1995, in the beginning receiving as little as the equivalent of P10,000 a month. He and his wife, Marivic, also a former OFW in Singapore, are now doing a good job at farming although they are renting the lands they till. They prefer renting land since there are many farmlands for rent at P20,000 per hectare per year in San Rafael.
We visited Johnny’s plantation of 1,000 Red Royale papaya from East-West Seed that he planted on January 20, 2017. By May, he started harvesting, not the ripe ones but the green fruits which he sells to his regular customers.
Since then, he has been harvesting 200 to 300 kilos of green papaya every two days which he sells at P8 to P9 per kilo. The better fruits sell for P9 a kilo so that he actually makes more than P1,600 to P2,400 every two days. Harvesting 200 to 300 kilos every two days is perfect for Johnny. It is a simple operation that is very convenient for him to do. No hassle in harvesting and selling his green fruits which are used as vegetable – as ingredient for tinola, atsara and other preparations.
Johnny likes producing green papaya rather than ripe ones. For one, green papaya is not as delicate as ripe papaya to transport. Green papaya is not yet affected by fruitfly. And the papaya trees tend to produce more fruits because the fruits are not allowed to mature.
Johnny also finds selling green papaya advantageous. As he harvests the fruits every two days, he has a constant cash flow which he can use in growing other crops like tomato, eggplant, squash and others.
At first, Johnny did not have any experience in growing high-value crops but he was able to learn the improved techniques by attending seminars given by government agriculturists and private companies like East-West Seed.
Johnny Gatuz and his wife don’t have farmland of their own because for them it is more practical to rent land for farming. Farmlands are expensive these days and it will take a big capital to buy one’s own farm. After all, Johnny said, there are many farms for rent in Bulacan.
At first, Johnny had to rent just one hectare for P20,000 a year. He and his wife did not have the capital when they settled down in San Rafael. The couple had to borrow P50,000 from a relative without interest so they could start farming.
Today, they are renting 4.5 hectares for growing other high-value crops besides papaya. One three-hectare parcel is being rented for P50,000 a year. The amount is not difficult to recover. From his one thousand papaya trees alone, the P50,000 rent for three hectares can be recovered from his harvest of green papayas in just 1.5 months.
When they were just starting in their farming, they just planted the ordinary varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables. They didn’t really make money from them because the yield was low. They started to make money, Johnny said, after trying the hybrid seeds from East-West and adopting improved techniques like the use of plastic mulch. He remembers very well when they were able to plant East-West’s Diamante Max tomato which they harvested in the off-season months of October and beyond. They were able to sell their tomatoes at P70 to P90 per kilo which really gave them a big profit.
text ZAC B. SARIAN
This article was originally published on Manila Bulletin.