“Ma’am, padayon ta sa pagpa-FDA!”
Roel Sarabia peeked from behind the doors of the copra storage room of COSIBA Agrarian Reform Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative to greet Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Misamis Occidental Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) staff, Margie G. Baldezamo.
Sarabia is the chairperson of COSIBA, one of the most responsive Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organizations (ARBOs) assisted by DTI through CARP.
Located in Tudela, Misamis Occidental, COSIBA had been toiling, sometimes volunteering time and energy, to carry out necessary construction improvements in their building for almost a year. As with other businesses, the cooperative is cash-strapped as it somehow suffered from COVID’s economic blows.
Its business development journey with DTI began eight years ago when it was endorsed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). Since then, COSIBA received holistic intervention from the agency. On top of need-specific training and seminars via CARP, the cooperative is a graduate of DTI’s Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program—a modular mentorship project incorporating high-caliber mentors fondly referred to by its mentees as “angelpreneurs.”
In 2014, COSIBA’s banana chips were developed through a CARP-initiated skills training. Their product was further enhanced by the agency through label and packaging design upgrade and was introduced to the market through DTI-initiated trade fairs. COSIBA eventually became a chosen beneficiary of DTI’s Shared Service Facilities (SSF) program where they were granted a complete set of banana processing equipment intended to increase productivity and improve product quality.
The cooperative’s interest for food licensing was further heightened when COSIBA went through a training on Good Manufacturing Practices conducted by DTI CARP in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in August 2020. Understanding that an FDA license will be their key to access high-value markets, COSIBA was determined to work hand-in-hand with DTI to accomplish application prerequisites.
The agency equipped them with further assistance in the preparation of their Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) manual through a write-shop session in August of the same year. At the very peak of the pandemic and without reliable internet connection at COSIBA’s rural community, COSIBA, DTI, and DOST worked together to conduct a very limited, face-to-face write-shop. Through virtual interaction, COSIBA was able to exchange ideas with the consultant to complete the SSOP Manual.
In March 2021, COSIBA lodged their online FDA application. But it shortly came to a halt after a month due to monetary implications in addressing the corrective findings of FDA.
COSIBA requested for account reactivation in March 2022 and was finally approved by the FDA in May 2022 with the License to Operate.
From simple wishes of getting a food license spoken on a sunny afternoon, COSIBA has finally achieved its dream.
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