Cordillera farmers received a precious gift from the government with the recent put up of the multi-million Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), the largest vegetable trading center in the country, in order to serve as the premier trading center of locally produced vegetables with additional component services of packaging and processing in order to put added value to our agricultural crops. The agriculture department painstakingly brought concerned government agencies and local governments over the past several years just for the noble project to push through. Farmers had been clamouring for sufficient government support through the years with the reason that they need more government interventions to help the region’s vegetable industry to cope with the implementation of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) free trade.
It has been observed that despite the completion of the facility, the putting in place of competent management team members and dry run of the manual of operations in order to subject the same for adjustments, no actual vegetable trading is being done within the facility because of the inability of concerned agencies and local governments to cascade to the real farmers the true purpose of the establishment of the facility which is for the overall welfare of the farmers. Unfortunately, there are some individuals behind a purported farmer’s association wanting to lord it over the lucrative vegetable industry and sabotage the full operation of the facility amidst the implementation of the ASEAN free trade. Some of the members of the association, who claim to be the voice of the farmers, seem not to actually represent the real sentiment of the farmers who really want to avail of the services of the facility in order to lessen the chain that would guarantee them higher income for them that would uplift their living condition. A number of sectors seem to be behind the obvious divisiveness among the farmers groups in order to ensure that they continue to wreck bigger income at the expense of the farmers who are supposed to be the ones to directly benefit from their produce.
Several months have since the successful dry run of trading within the facility but it seems that there are some sectors who are really working heaven and earth to discredit the operation of the facility because it would greatly affect their hidden income from the existing trading practice at the old vegetable trading post. Manny farmers groups from different parts of the Cordillera are now questioning whether a group representing the farmers in the project steering committee of the BAPTC because it seems that the statements they are issuing in public seem not to conform with their own sentiments, thus, the obvious absence of consultations among them. Further, they are also questioning why a businessman not a farmer is the one issuing such statements that they are not aware of which is unfair on the part of the greater majority of the farmers.
Vegetable farming is the major source of over 250,000 individuals not only in the province but also in some parts of Mountain Province and Ifugao for decades now. Aside from establishing the biggest vegetable trading center in the region, government also heavily invested in the development of the road network in order to contribute in effectively reducing the transportation cost of vegetables from the farms to the market, particularly the newest trading facility.
We should remember that the government provided the farmers with the trading facility in order to allow them to cope with the current trends of the global trading of agricultural crops. People should remember that the operation of the facility will not be always free considering that it was envisioned to be self-liquidating to make sure that all concerned sectors will protect and further improve the facility. We beg to disagree with the position of a few farmers that they should not be charged trading fee when transacting business with the facility. Common sense dictates that individuals must pay for the services rendered them to allow the sustained operation of the facility that will be lowed back to them through effective service and various agriculture development projects.
WE believe it is high time for a re-organization of the farmers group representing their sector in the project steering committee because their representatives seem not to speak the true voice of the farmers but the voice of certain sectors who want to dislocate the operation of the facility for their own personal gains. We urge the BAPTC management to highten their information and education campaign around the region to be able to convince more farmers to trade in the facility without doubts on their part that will contribute in further improving the region’s overall agriculture sector.
All concerned sectors must closely work together so as not to turn the facility into a non-performing asset which would be a clear waste of public funds. Remember, government heavily invested to put up the facility for the clear benefit of farmers and nobody else, thus, the true voice of the farmers must be the ones to be heard and not the voice of just a few who want to lord it over the lucrative agriculture sector.