Looking into the oversupply of fruits, vegetables in Benguet

January 18, 2019 - 1:55 PM
Fruits and vegetables Interaksyon
Filipinos are concerned with several posts of farmers in Benguet selling their crops at unreasonably low prices. (Pixabay)

Farmers in Benguet province resorted to social media to sell huge supplies of crops at very low prices after being unable to sell them during the holidays.

The surplus was reportedly due to the string of cyclones during the third and last quarter of 2018 that affected marketing and production schedules.

Some people who noticed these posts volunteered to help while they criticized the government’s perceived lack of action.

Based on the screenshots, fruits and vegetables were being sold at only P6 to P40 per kilo. This is below the regular pricing in markets and shopping centers in Metro Manila.

One Twitter user commented that this situation is the result of the preference on importing products rather than supporting local ones.

“Dahil imbes na suportahan natin yung mga kasama nating mga magsasaka at manggagawang bukid, mas pinipili ng mga kapitalista at ng gobyernong ‘to mag import ng mga bilihin,” user @katongbascon said.

Others pointed out that it’s ironic how the country is agricultural in resources yet workers in the sector receive insufficient help.

Facebook group Happy Farmers provided a platform for Benguet farmers to sell their crops to the public. Being a public group page, interested buyers can easily place their inquiries.

Meanwhile, Facebook user Iloisa Salatan Romaraog, who owns an online grocery store called Session Groceries, also volunteered the farmers rid of their stock before they expire.

Early this year, video clips and photos of farmers throwing away truckloads of rotten unsold carrots and other vegetables have also saddened online Filipinos who noted the waste in food and manpower.

Some questioned why the Department of Agriculture is not providing solutions to alleviate the situation of the farmers.

When the issue blew up online, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol previously said that he allotted P100 million in compensation for affected farmers through the Agricultural Credit Policy.

Conflicting reasons 

What DA says

Piñol said that the oversupply situation in Benguet was caused by the onslaught of Typhoon Usman, which landed in the country last month.

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He said that Director Cameron Odsey of DA-Cordillera Autonomous Region and Regional DA consultant Rufino Panagan advised him of traders refusing to purchase products from the region due to the bad weather conditions at that time.

“Tropical Depression Usman hit the Bicol Region Dec. 28 and caused the closure of the national highway because of the floods thus preventing the transport of the vegetables,” Piñol said on Facebook.

The Cabinet official also denounced accusations of the agency being insensitive to the plight of the farmers. He said that these are “baseless and prematurely hurled.”

“I understand was triggered by high emotions,” he said.

What the farmers say

A leader of a local cooperative, however, tells a different story. Augusta Balanoy of Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative countered Piñol’s reason on low traders or buyers of the province’s goods.

She explained that farmers normally experience an oversupply of goods every year being that they plant excess crops beforehand.

The difference in 2018 is that the rainy season caused the delay of their planting schedules. Therefore, the harvest season extended to this January.

“Bago pa mag December, dinamihan na ng farmers ang produce para ma-meet ang demand. Kaso noong nag-ber months last year there was a month-long monsoon, sinundan pa ng Tropical Depression Usman. Hindi na-meet ‘yong target planting schedule, umatras nang umatras,” Balanoy said.

Farmers normally harvest approximately 1.2 million kilos per day. By 2019, however, they saw around 3.5 million kilos of harvest.

She said that what the farmers need are bigger processing facilities for the surplus stocks.

“We ask the agriculture department to step in,” she said.

Piñol responded on Facebook that the National Food Authority conducted buying or procurement operations to help farmers earn from the glut of harvest.

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