‘Hinagpis ng kamatis’: Rural Rising appeals for buyers of excess tomatoes to help farmers

December 8, 2023 - 5:53 PM
A picture of a farmer placing excess tomatoes along the road due to lack of buyers (ruralrisingph/Facebook)

A social enterprise appealed on Facebook for buyers of hundreds of surplus tomatoes from farmers who could not sell them this holiday season.

Rural Rising Philippines (RuRi), a venture dedicated to conducting rescue buys of excess crops, said that farmers have been dumping “truckloads” of “sleep” tomatoes because there are not enough buyers.  These farmers came from the “highlands,” which include the localities:

  • Tinoc town in Ifugao
  • Kabayan and Atok towns in Benguet
  • Dupax Del Norte town Nueva Vizcaya

“HINAGPIS NG KAMATIS 2023. The heartbreak for highland TOMATO farmers is now full-blown, there will be many unhappy Christmases this year. Like last year, the scourge has come around again,” RuRi said.

“Every day, farmers are throwing away tomatoes that have been passed on by buyers, tomatoes that have spent a day and a night waiting for naught. They call these tomatoes ‘sleep’ and yesterday (December 5, 2023) there was a report of 200,000 plus kilos of sleep tomatoes in one bagsakan alone,” it added.

RuRi also uploaded pictures of a farmer and his family who placed 200 crates of tomatoes on the road in hopes they could be bought.

“Sayang ang pagkain, sayang ang pinag-paguran, sobrang sakit ang kawalan. For this farmer and his family, Malingan Mahag, it will be an unhappy Christmas. Where he held fierce hope for his 200 crates of tomatoes, there is now none, they are all gone,” it said.

In the post, RuRi also lamented the worsened situation.

“The time when their owners threw them away ‘only’ by the crateful is long past, they’re being dumped by the truckloads. Watch, weep. It is hard to unsee these images, it is impossible to unfeel pain. Isang piraso lang na kamatis galing sa tinapong bundok na ito, isang tao na ang kakain dito sa Metro Manila,” it said.

To help these farmers, RuRi launched a series of tomato rescues where interested people can either purchase or donate.

Every 10 kilograms of tomatoes costs P349 only.

Instructions and contact information were also uploaded on the post.

Several Filipinos, meanwhile, were also heartbroken that farmers were left with no choice but to throw away their crops.

They also noted how expensive tomatoes are in the market.

“Grabe…lack of buyers! Produkto ng kapwa mo Pilipino, walang masyadong bumibili, pero ang mag import sa ibang bansa, ang bilis!” a Facebook user commented.

“Government should provide training on how to turn this into something useful and profitable,” another Facebook user said.

Last September, tomatoes reached a staggering price of P300 per kilo in Metro Manila due to a shortage in supply.

What are “sleep tomatoes”?

In an interview with Philippine Star, Rural Rising Philippines founder Ace Estrada explained that “sleep tomatoes” are those that were not sold in a day after being harvested.

Estrada, however, noted that they are not overripe.

“When you say ‘sleep’ tomatoes, these stay overnight at Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Terminal. The tomatoes are not yet overripe but since new tomatoes arrive the following day, the tomatoes need to be removed as NVAT has limited capacity to store,” he was quoted in the report as saying.

“If you cannot sell your tomatoes in one day, the middlemen will no longer buy them as they prefer fresh harvest,” he added.

Estrada also shared that some farmers were forced to sell their crops at lower prices out of desperation.

“Farmers who are desperate are forced to sell even though the traders offer very low prices instead of dumping them. There will be overproduction if the farmers compete with one market,” he said.