By Maya M. Padillo, Correspondent

DAVAO CITY — The Malagos Garden Resort here, like other tourism sites, has been forced to close since mid-March. But operations have not completely stopped as the Puentespina family that owns the Malagos group of companies has been going into and planning new ventures to keep up with the times altered by the coronavirus disease 2019.

Rex Victor P. Puentespina, farmer and chocolate maker of Malagos Agri-Ventures Corp., said with food security and livelihood at risk, “diversify” is the name of the game.

He said they are already looking at growing new crops while the company has started an online shop that delivers most of their products — bread and other baked goods, processed and frozen food, fresh produce, soil, and their signature chocolates and cheeses.

But in spite of these innovations, Mr. Puentespina said they are still facing financial struggles like most everyone else.

“I guess a break-even target at the end of the year is realistic. However, I am worried about how to service bank obligations and being forced to reduce the labor force. One way we plan to address the decrease in global demand is to develop new products for the mass market,” he said in an email interview.

“But even with mass-market products, people can still expect Malagos Chocolate to produce high-quality chocolates that remain faithful to our standards,” he added.

The bigger challenge nowadays, he said, is moving products to the domestic and international markets given limited air and sea transport.

He cited as an example their inability to send an order to Spain because the air freight rates “from Davao to Manila have doubled,” plus the onward cost to deliver abroad.

“I don’t think it will go back to the old rates. On domestic sea freight, I have yet to get more info on the new rates,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said he is not “so worried about the farming side of the business; the world still needs to eat chocolates.”

Mr. Puentespina also said Malagos Farms will continue with its cacao farm training school.

“Even with the new normal, we are committed to continue our programs of teaching more farmers,” he said.

“I believe that the goodwill and reputation that we have built all these years — among our markets overseas and with the farmers in our locale — will see us through in these difficult times,” he said.