‘Chichacorn’ offers added income to farmers in La Union town

TUBAO, La Union — Farmer members of the Halog West Producer’s Cooperative, Inc. have been earning through their chichacorn (deep-fried crunchy puffed corn) processing over the last decade, aside from farming on 121.6 hectares of agrarian reform land in Barangay Halog West here.

From their seed capital amounting to PHP5,000, the cooperative has PHP100,000 in the bank and with more than PHP2 million in assets, Halog West chairman Nena Panes said in an interview Wednesday.

Under the Village-Level Processing Center Enhancement Program (VLPCEP) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the processing center of the cooperative was constructed.

The VLPCEP aims to develop market competitive agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) products and to enhance enterprise and livelihood activities in selected agrarian reform areas.

“The processing of corn emerged with the abundance of different variet(ies) of corn here in our community,” Panes said.

She said they use only white corn for their chichacorn, and they have mastered the way to maintain its crunchiness, thus it remains whole even if it underwent processing.

“Our customers are mostly the local government units (LGUs), pasalubong centers here in La Union, national government agencies, and our neighborhood. We also join exhibits and trade fairs, (and) even trade fairs in Manila to grow our market. And we earn more from these trade fairs,” Panes said.

The cooperative is also selling their products through social media with its own Facebook account to reach a wider market.

She added that their products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and these are also complete with packaging among other requirements.

The chichacorn is currently labeled as Halog Munchies Chichacorn, but a plan to change it to Tubao Munchies is underway.

Halog chichacorn was awarded Best Processed Food Product during DAR’s National Trade Festival in 2017.

Panes acknowledged challenges in their food processing, citing flooding in their farmlands as among their constant struggles.

“The farmers here have long been together. They have been farming here — from our great grandparents to our parents, and to us. Tubao was known before for steamed corn as our product, but since many have been doing it already, the Department of Trade and Industry helped us come up with the idea of chichacorn. But we’ve been through a lot. Nonetheless, DAR, DA (Department of Agriculture) and the LGU here helped our cooperative,” she related.

The cooperative, Panes added, continues to evolve as it tries processing other products.

“We are also looking into possibilities of processing bananas and cassava, which are also abundant here, into chips,” she said.  Hilda Austria / PNA – northboundasia.com