Barugo cookie makers rising up from the rubble

BARUGO, Leyte, (PNA) — Producers of “roscas”, a local cookie of this town, is now on their road to recovery after suffering losses from last year’s super typhoon.

Hampered by rising prices of ingredients, weak purchasing power of their town folks, and partially damaged production site, the 11-member Barugo Roscas Producers Association (BRPA) scaled down their operation.

“The real challenge now is the weak sales because people have less money to buy non-basic food items after the disaster shattered their livelihood. We hope to penetrate markets in Cebu and Manila to attain growth,” said Victoria B. Astorga, the association president.

Average daily net sales dropped from P2,000 before the typhoon to less than P1,000 during post-Yolanda months. The group hopes to full recover within two years.

At the end of the month, cooperative members divide the income. Before the typhoon, each member got a P4,000 share. It was cut by half in the past eight months.

The group of women entrepreneurs is seeking for bigger production area in a strategic location to boost sales. Currently, their production and selling area is located at the second floor of Barugo public market building.

“Our major constraint is that we don’t have the logistics and linkages to bring our product to the outside market,” said Astorga, whose cooperative directly supports the living of about 60 individuals in this town.

Before November 8, 2013, the association produces 18 kilograms of cookies daily, but after the storm the volume was reduced by half due to weak demand.

Formed in 2006, the women entrepreneurs are beneficiaries of various programs designed to enhance production by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for technology upgrading, Food and Drug Administration for sanitation, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for Good Manufacturing Practices and packaging as well as bar code certification of products.

DOST also provided equipment for packaging and labeling while DTI gave various trainings and marketing support. The Department of Labor and Employment provided the association with various production equipment and raw materials.

The local government of Barugo, on the other hand, provided baking pans, trays, and display racks for finished products.

“Roscas making really empowered women in this town. We learned the value of entrepreneurship and various opportunities to contribute to rural development,” said Ortega, an elementary education graduate who worked as day care teacher for 18 years before heading the cooperative.

Roscas is a kind of cookie largely available in Barugo, Leyte. It had its beginnings in the late 1960s when a Barugo woman brought roscas-making technology from her travel abroad.

The family business grew into a community enterprise, with families producing roscas for festive occasions.