FOLLOWING the huge losses sustained by Benguet farmers during the holiday season when prices plummeted abnormally, many different parties have offered to ease the burden on the highland growers with various shows of support.
The religious sector has joined in the relief efforts with a “rescue operation,” with the Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP), also known as the Anglican Church, publicly declaring on January 8 that they will buy extremely devalued produce at competitive prices, encouraging members of the church to do the same to aid the producers.
In the regional government side of matters, the Department of Agriculture – Cordillera (DA-CAR) has sourced vegetables from the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center and La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post at competitive prices to sell to employees of the regional offices of the DA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), as well as Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM). Some 3.1 metric tons of vegetables have been bought at reasonable prices through this initiative, according to DA-CAR purchase records.
Meanwhile, according to certain Benguet vegetable growers, they were able to dispose of 56,000 kilos of cabbage and wombok in Taytay, Rizal at good prices with even transport costs covered due to the initiatives of both Taytay private residents who requested anonymity and the Mayor of Taytay, Allan De Leon, who bought nearly half the supply for distribution to residents.
The abnormal price drop during the holiday season has been attributed to smuggling and new trade pacts causing price problems by flooding the market with foreign crops by the League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas (LALTVTA).
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in 2023 reported P2.9 billion worth of smuggled agricultural products being confiscated, already a rise from P2 billion worth in the preceding year, and not accounting for products that slip through inspections and confiscations.
The DA-CAR has refused this claim of imports being the cause of low prices and they also confirmed in a statement that the price drop is not attributed to oversupply as is normally said to be a farmer-caused problem, as they have not monitored smuggled or otherwise illegal imports.
Aida Pagtan, DA-CAR information officer, said officials disclosed in a stakeholders’ meeting convened by their department on Tuesday, a 6.8 percent decline in cabbage production and a mere 1.10% growth in the Chinese cabbage harvest during the same period.
Apparently, a strange twist in the trade, the lack of buyers from December 28 to January 3, caused prices to plummet. Pagtan further said that the vegetables brought to the trading post on January 1 started to deteriorate and farmers chose to sell at a low price or to simply give them away.