Problems continue to hound vegetable farmers

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Cordillera has always invested in farming since time immemorial. The vast culture and rich fertile terrains of the region attracted investors like bees on sunflowers. It was recorded that Cordillera produces 70 to 80 percent of the vegetable produce in the entire Philippines and Benguet contributes 87 percent to the Cordillera highland vegetable supply.

Despite being able to produce this volume of vegetables for the country, Benguet farmers were found to belong to the low income earners of the country.

There are several reasons as to why they belong to this bracket of earners. The Department of Agriculture identified three reasons. These are: 1) the low demand of vegetables among consumers due to the high prices imposed by traders; 2) the low buying price imposed by middlemen to vegetable farmers and; 3) the high interest rates of agricultural loans.

One classic example for having low demands in highland vegetables is the lack of reference prices among farmers and consumers in the markets. This leads to the abusive imposition of middlemen and traders controlling this aspect of the vegetable industry.

Manila has a population of 11 million in 2014, but most of its residents consumed meat more than vegetables due to the high prices of the latter in the markets.

The low demand of the public to highland vegetables affect the income of farmers since farmers believed in the popular cliché “chinambaan lang” or “weather, weather lang yan” when it comes to vegetable production.

On the other hand, although it is not evident that traders and middlemen imposes low buying prices for highland vegetables in the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP), some farmers have confessed that some disposers have tricked farmers into selling their produce at lower prices compared to their average production costing. This results to farmers being price takers, they do not control the prices of their commodities but confers to middlemen and traders’ pricing standards which are often times oppressing. Other factors why farmers take lower prices are the lack of open trading centers within their area and the small volume of vegetables they trade.

Producing small volumes and poor quality vegetables may have its own reasons. Two of these possible reasons are the small landholdings of farmers and the low yield of products due to lack of plant protection, lack of irrigation, poor seed quality, high pest incidence, poor post harvest handling and poor cultural practice which spurs from the high costs of vegetable production inputs.

Oversupplying of produce in the wet market also triggers competition that would lead to the lowering of prices among farmers in the open trading spaces. Oversupplying is also caused by natural factors (weather) and lack of market information (vegetable programming).

In relation to oversupplying, the lack for Institutional markets and buyers also lowers the prices of vegetable commodities of farmers. Institutional buyers are not attracted to highland commodities due to its small volume, untimely deliveries, poor quality of produce and its long term of payment.

As discussed earlier, the poor quality of produce is caused by the high cost of vegetable production inputs.

Lastly, some financing loans are considered as not affordable to farmers specially its interests rates. Farmers tend to apply for these financing assistance or loans is because there is a lack of affordable financing assistances.

By Danica Tomin