The taste of flaming hot success:
Josue Carmen, Jr. and Engr. Samuel Carmen both hail from Surallah, South Cotabato. Business Management graduate Josue was born on August 13, 1993, while Chemical Engineering graduate Samuel was born on January 23, 1991.
The two own SOX Peppers, known as the largest Carolina Reaper plantation in Asia, which was made possible with the help of the Young Farmers Challenge Fund (YFCF): Kabataang Agribiz Competitive Grant Assistance Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
A hint of spice
It all started when the Carmen family decided to venture into farming high-value crops in early 2021. Unfortunately, their onion venture went sour as the crops did not yield what was expected and incurred severe losses on capital investment. Despite these initial failures, the family believed that behind every dark cloud lies a silver lining.
The older Carmen was introduced to more high-value crops, sweet bell pepper, and siling panigang, knowing nothing about these crops except its market potential. He also met a relative who introduced them to Carolina Reapers. This, coupled with the introduction of the YFCF Program, a potential and lucrative emerging business came to mind.
Building up the heat
He immediately started to plant the newly introduced Carolina Reaper with the help of the skilled Indigenous Peoples (IP) in their area. It was observed that the crop grew well and became acclimated to the area.
The younger Carmen, who was employed at Stepan Chemicals, Inc. – Philippines, focused his spare time on researching the crop. He also designed the processing, took charge of the equipment selection, and spent a portion of his salary to invest in the procurement of the needed equipment.
The two proponents joined the YFCF Program with one motto in their mind: “aim to win.” As they constructed their business model canvas and studied their cash flow, both were convinced that someday and somehow, their business can operate on an industrial scale. They secured their place as one of SOCCSKSARGEN’s regional YFCF winners.
Before YFCF came into the picture, they had already planted 1,000 hills in a 1,000-square-meter area. They earned more than Php 80,000 on their first harvest alone.
Using an online platform, their fresh pods sold out immediately. All of the earnings from their fresh Carolina Reaper pods, together with their winnings from the YFCF, were used to expand their farm with an additional two hectares. It now has an estimate of more than 18,600 Carolina Reaper hills planted.
Seeing the potential of the crop, Engr. Carmen decided to resign from his work and to fully dedicate all his time to their venture. He applied his skills as a chemical engineer to develop the processing and optimize the operations in the plantation.
The two also intend to go into making and selling hot sauces, chili oil, chili paste, chili powder, and sinamak by January 2022.
SOX Peppers is truly grateful for the opportunity given by the DA. They believe that the YFCF Program was a gift from God for them to broaden opportunities as agripreneurs and to generate employment for the IPs living in the marginal areas. SOX Peppers hopes that they inspire and propel more young farmers and agripreneurs to engage in agri-fisheries and contribute to food security. ###