Benguet farmers seek DA intervention amid veggie glut
BENGUET, Philippines – Vegetable farmers in Benguet are hoping the Agriculture department will help market their produce and reduce the number of middlemen between farmers and consumers amid a glut that has seen prices drop.
Augusta Balanoy, general manager of the Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative cited as an example how a measly farm price of P18/kilogram for vegetables ends up on consumers’ tables at P60/kilo because the produce asses through at least six to up to eight “layers” in the middle. Prices have tripled by the time they reach consumers, she said.
At most, farmers only receive government assistance through credit, but “this is not what we need,” Balanoy said, while reiterating the harrowing situation of the vegetable industry in northern Benguet where tons of harvested carrots, potatoes, cabbages and other crops are being left to rot because of an existing glut.
Benguet vegetable farmers have been harvesting around 3.5 million kilograms daily since the start of the year, up from an average of just 1.2 million kg, which is flooding the market that shrank after the holidays.
Farmers experienced the glut because of weather disturbances during the third and last quarter of 2017 that interfered with the normal scheduling of production and marketing, Balanoy explained, while seeking the Agriculture department’s intervention.
“We ask the Agriculture department to step in on marketing (Benguet vegetables),” Balanoy said, as she reiterated the need to reduce the number of “layers” from farm to consumer.
Benguet farmers are also pressing government to build big processing facilities that can process the oversupply into end products like juices, noodles and the like so that farmers will not leave their produce rotting in their gardens, the farmers cooperative official pointed out.
Prices of vegetables at the La Trinidad trading post has drastically dropped since the start of the year. A kilo of Chinese cabbage “wombok” pegs at P1-7, first class cabbage rareball at P8-18, potatoes at P15-50, carrots at P1-35.
Price dip after holidays normal
The Agriculture department considers the dip in prices normal.
“We monitored the prices of vegetables in trading posts daily. This first week of January, it declined by 30 percent and that’s normal, because of the high prices and the demand during Christmas and New Year. Right after the holidays, it will really go down,” Department of Agriculture-Cordillera director Cameron Odsey said.
In an official online post, Odsey and Agriculture chief Emmanuel Piñol said traders have refused to buy the vegetables delivered by the farmers because flooding in the south of Luzon prevented them from shipping the commodities to Bicol and Visayas.
“Vegetables do not only go to Manila but also to Visayas. When typhoon [sic] Usman hit the country last week of December, no Ro-Ro boats were available during the typhoon, which is one factor why there are less buyers,” Odsey explained.
The Agriculture department in the highlands is looking at working with local government units and set up a surveillance system for each town that will identify crops to avoid duplication.
DA and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation vow to start the validation process to identify farmers who incurred loss during the previous storm following the release of insurance payments
“As per instructions of DA secretary, first we are going to validate and identify how many farmers, if they are covered by crop insurance. If they are, they can automatically claim, (and) if they are not covered, we will encourage them to access credit for them to utilize,” Odsey said.
Balanoy though raised, government’s answer to farmers’ worries could not be loans from the Agriculture department. “It is not an emergency measure that the farmers’ need.”