As COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the past year, and community quarantine and lockdowns were implemented nationwide, one major concern was the demand for food production and marketing. In response, the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC) provides emergency and production requirement assistance to small farmers and fisherfolk (SFF) and micro and small enterprises (MSEs) to continue operations and ensure food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Helen del Rosario is the Managing Director of Soyuz Foods International Inc., one of DA-ACPC’s loan beneficiaries under its Expanded Sure Aid and Recovery Project or SURE COVID-19 for MSEs. Under this program, duly registered agri-fishery-based MSEs may avail of up to P10 million, zero-interest loans payable up to five years.

Soyuz Foods International Inc. is a manufacturer and exporter of calamansi-based products. The agribusiness supplies cosmetic manufacturers which buy pure calamansi extract in bulk. The direction of the said agribusiness is to expand the calamansi market. Instead of expanding locally, they expanded it internationally and elevate calamansi in the international market. The office of Soyuz Foods International Inc. is located at Ortigas, Pasig City while their factory plant is located at Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City.

Through the DA-ACPC partner lending conduit (PLC), the Producers Savings Bank Corporation, and the assistance of DA – Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS), Ms. del Rosario was able to avail of P3 million additional working capital under the SURE COVID-19 for MSE to further expand its market through digital and online selling platforms. The project aims to make native calamansi an essential ingredient in the culinary, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical fields taking into consideration the health benefits it can contribute to the wellness of the populace. She also wants to forge a partnership with farmers’ groups and agricultural entrepreneurs through sustainable development initiatives in order to improve their living conditions and minimize poverty in the farming sector.

Soyuz is one of the MSEs affected during this COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. del Rosario narrated that there are a number of cancellation of orders from Institutional buyers both for export and in the local market. Their cash flow had been affected and they need additional working capital to continue their business and to be able to develop new products. Another consideration is the difficulty in transaction because most offices are on skeletal work force.

Ms. del Rosario said that she was able to make her own business plan since she had knowledge and experience in agribusiness. ACPC’s program management team facilitated and assisted her during the loan application up to the loan releasing. “They are very professional in handling my account and had shown a lot of support in terms of mediating my case with the PLC which is Producers Savings Bank Corporation. A million thanks to the officers and staff of ACPC.” she said.

“In business, focus not just on the profit but also in giving the right service and the social responsibility to fulfill,” said the Managing Director of Soyuz. “It always beyond the business. You should relate to them. Be transparent and always inform the clients”.  When it comes to customer relationship, Ms. del Rosario expressed that “You should have a good relationship with your customers at ang pinaka importante that you are ready to go an extra mile to be able to serve them.” She said that she is happy with the profit that she is earning in her calamansi-based production. Despite not having a background in agriculture, Ms. del Rosario’s advocacy urged her to venture into agribusiness. “Your choice of being an entrepreneur is advocacy. It is a big calling. You need to fortify the business, your recipes with a lot of love, passion and hard work in order to be sustainable. As a leader, you should not only acquire the skill to lead but you should be in authority to empower, strengthen and make your people grow continuously,” Ms. del Rosario’s message to the aspiring agripreneurs.

Ms. Helen del Rosario is in collaboration with Farmer Leaders in her farm for development of new products for digital marketing.