Agricultural supply stores are more important than most people think. It is these businesses, big and small, that serve farmers’ various requirements in their projects.

Farm supply stores are just like many other businesses. Some prosper while others may just wither along the way. One company that started very small but which has become a giant in the industry is Baliuag Marketing, based in San Rafael, Bulacan.

We met Mrs. Virginia Samonte, the diminutive but very energetic lady who started the business in October 1978 with just P150,000 as capital. She emphasized, though, that she is not the business owner, but our friends from East-West Seed assured us that she was the very person responsible for the developing the business.

Virgie Samonte, Lenny Cunanan (Baliuag Marketing sales supervisor), and Christopher Pile of the
East-West Seed Company.

The business started with the sale of Shell Chemical products that included crop protection chemicals for rice, vegetables, and other crops. Prudence is a mark of Virgie’s business style. She made do without a luxurious office or vehicles in the early years.

In those years, she confides, the technicians of the companies that supplied her with the farm supplies were very dedicated and conscientious. They taught her and the farmers the right way of applying their products.

Soon the other multinationals in the agricultural business approached her so she could also carry their products. Today, practically all the big companies are her suppliers. These include Bayer Crop Science, Syngenta, Jardine, Planters Products, BASF, Biostadt, Leads Agri, Pioneer Hi-Bred, East-West Seed, Kaneko, Ramgo, and Allied Botanical.

Today, Baliuag Marketing operates nationwide with about 30 branches in different strategic places. Sister firms have been put up to service particular niche markets. These include MVP Fertilizer Trader Co., Integrated Crop Trading Corp., and JAT Agri Farm.

The Baliuag Marketing Group carries practically all the farming needs of farmers. Crop protection products include fungicides, insecticides, herbicides, and sprayers. Vegetable seeds also make up a significant portion of Baliuag Marketing’s business.

Mrs. Samonte says she pays special attention to selecting dealers and distributors in the provinces as well as in urban areas. She prefers dealers with bodegas (warehouses) and a distribution network, for instance.

She also monitors the sale of products in her inventory. If certain products are not moving, they are removed from the shelf and returned to the supplier.

Speaking of vegetable seeds, her company sells a lot of East-West seeds. She sells about P150 million worth of vegetable seeds, including onion seeds. The volume could be bigger, she said, if onion seeds were not restricted to a certain volume only.

Among the top 10 bestsellers are Ampalaya (Galaxy), Suprema squash, D’Max tomato, Django pangsigang pepper, Morena eggplant, okra, Pavito pechay, Mayumi upo, Primera patola, and Red Hot pepper.

Mrs. Samonte also tightly controls the extension of credit. She does not deliver the goods unless the payment is ready, especially if it is a government office that orders her products.

Virgie says that she only finished a two-year secretarial course. This only shows that you don’t have to be a master’s degree holder from a leading business school in order to succeed in business. It’s is the mastery of the ins and outs of the particular business that the person is engaged in that matters most.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2014 issue.