Papaya grower in Bago City

In farming, as in any other business, one has to be creative in order to become a winner. Just like our new friend Sergio "Jun" Hilado of Bago City who spent 30 of his 55 years in Manila. And for 14 years he was vice president for operations of a well known management firm in the city.

Then in 2000, he decided to give up his corporate job to return to nis native Negros so he can become a full-time gentleman farmer. While sugarcane is his main crop in the 80 hectares that he operates today, he is more excited about growing his Red Royale papaya. Before that, he was growing the very popular Red Lady variety.

He likes papaya because the gestation period is relatively short compared to some other crops. And once the papaya has started producing ripe fruit, harvesting is usually twice a week and so the cash flow is continuous for several months.

Jun says that papaya is really a profitable crop to grow, especially if one can avoid the virus that now and then attacks some plants. He has been trying to outwit the virus by planting in a new area each time.

In 2010, he planted just half a hectare to Red Lady. He really had a good crop because for four months, he harvested from his plants two times a week. And in each harvest he usually got 800 to 900 kilos. He sold most of them at P20 a kilo he grossed P16,000 to P18,000 per harvest, or P32,000 to P36,000 a week. As per his record, he spent only about P80,000 on that half hectare crop.

Later, Jun decided that his papayas should be better in quality and packaging than those of other growers in Negros. That way, he could command a higher price. So what did he do?He designed an attractive label which he stuck on each fruit. Just by doing that "Red Sweet" label, Jun was able to command a price of P25 per kilo instead of the P15 or P20 that most "viajeros" would offer the papaya farmer per kilo.

He has also designed a scheme that motivates his workers to work fast and efficiently in the farm. It is also a scheme that allows the workers to be able to bring home some money every time a particular work is finished. Say one hectare has to be weeded. He tells his workers that the budget for weeding is P1,200. And so, if four workers can finish weeding in one day, they can already receive their share of P300 each when they go home. There are many other chores that could be budgeted similarly.

Jun has also come up with his own organic fertilizer to reduce the cost of chemical fertilizers. He used to spend P21,000 on chemical fertilizers per hectare. Now, with his own organic fertilizer, he saves about P5,000 per hectare on fertilizers.

His organic fertilizer consists of chicken manure, mill ash, mudpress and rock phosphate.