LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Department of Agriculture (DA) committed to provide sufficient financial and technical assistance to the over 250,000-strong vegetable farmers in the province for them to be able to cope with the expected serious negative effects of the free trade among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the growing demand for value added among agricultural crops in the global market, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said here.
Alcala said part of the package of the P1 billion Agri Pinoy Trading Center is the provision of affordable loans with much lower interest to the vegetable farmers in order to prevent them from being tied up to the whims and caprices of enterprising traders and middlemen who often dictate the buying prices of their produce way below the prevailing buying prices in the trading post.
“We also want to incorporate the crop insurance for our farmers so that they will not be heavily affected during the onslaught of natural calamities and to allow them to recover from whatever losses,” Secretary Alcala said.
He assured local vegetable farmers that he will make frequent visits to the province to continuously dialogue with them on the importance of grouping themselves together and availing of the services of the one-stop processing, packaging and marketing center for them to be able to sustain the surge in the demand for vegetables with value added features.
According to Secretary Alcala, one of the salient features of the newest trading center is the availability of a quarantine laboratory with full-time technician to ensure that vegetables being traded in the facility pass the required limit of chemical residues in order to pass the international standards.
“Our farmers must learn to comply with the international standards of allowable chemical residues in their produce so that they will be able to reap the fruits of their compliance to good agricultural practices, especially in addressing their concerns,” he said.
He cited the compliance of farmers to international quality standards in the production, processing and packaging of their local produce will definitely translate to bigger demands from other countries, especially countries that rely on importing their food from agriculture-producing countries.
In cases of oversupply of locally-grown vegetables, Secretary Alcala ordered the conduct of a study wherein the chain of trading centers could be directly involved in the barter of their respective produce in order to prevent the buying prices of their crops from drastically going down to the detriment of the supposed guaranteed income of the concerned farmers.
For example, he explained if there is an oversupply of cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beans among others in the trading facility, bulk of its volume could be transported in other trading facilities experiencing oversupply of squash like in the Bicol region and dried fish in Visayas in order to strike the needed balance in the supply and demand of food.
He cited the importance of inter-connecting the trading centers in the different parts of the archipelago to be able to sustain sufficient supply of food for Filipinos and ensure import quality crops to help the country’s economic growth. By Dexter A. See