THERE is kamatis and there is kamatisch.
Kamatis sometimes are prone to overproduction and are sometimes dumped by the truckloads when the glut hits the market.
With kamatisch, you cannot go wrong. The price is a steep P170 per kilo even when the supply is more than adequate. And that is if you can get hold of them.
Kamatisch is also known as KT or Korean Tomatoes. They are also known as Korean cherry tomatoes but they are way more scrumptious.
KT are grown only in Baguio City, more specifically at the greenhouses at the Department of Agriculture – Cordillera grounds in Pinsao.
They are part of the Smart Greenhouse Philippine Project started in 2019 with the cooperation of the South Korean government.
The US$2.43 million project was started through the assistance of the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the Korea Agency of Education, Promotion and Information Service (EPIS).
The SGPP has nine greenhouses in the DA-RFO-CAR BPI Compound at Pinsao. Eight are used for growing KT commercially while one is used solely for research and development.
Jesus R. Aspuria, chief of Bureau of Plant Industry-Cordillera, said that they grow four kinds of KT known simply as red, orange, yellow and choco.
Last year, they also grew beefsteak tomatoes or the really huge tomatoes, sometimes weighing half a pound each.
But right now, they are growing all KT tomatoes. From the eight greenhouses, they are growing more than 6,500 KT plants.
These tomato plants are grown not like your usual kamatis. They are grown in plastic bags or coconut husks. They are fed through drip irrigation with a specially designed formula. Because they grow to almost two meters, the top parts are held by strings.
The tomatoes thrive on a temperature from 22 to 29 degrees. The greenhouses are “smart” with windows and fans operated with computers so the temperature would not be too cold or warm. They are also sturdy enough and have been able to withstand the typhoons since 2019.
The KT are also made to survive for up to ten months. Because they are hybrid, DA-Cordillera has to procure their seeds from South Korea.
Aspuria said that one plant can produce ten clusters every year or an annual harvest of ten kilos. KT sells for P170 a kilo but you can not buy them at the Baguio City Market just yet.
A Korean company, which distributes to the Korean markets in the country, buys all their stocks.
Now who takes care of the KT? As part of the SGP Project, Cordillera farmers are taught to take care of the plants in the greenhouses.
Three to four representatives from eight agricultural cooperatives take turns in caring for the kamatisch.
In one greenhouse, four out-of-school youths from the Benguet town of Kabayan were taking care of the KT in Greenhouse #4.
Ismael Bandiwan said that he had been a gardener back home but said that growing KT was far more complicated but more financially rewarding.
Bandiwan works three times a week in the greenhouse and gets a monthly allowance.
The end of the harvest season by the end of 2021 will likewise also be their graduation.
Because DA can not be technically profit-oriented, 70 percent of all the profits this year from the KT will be distributed to the 100 or so “scholar-farmers.”
Bandiwan said that they will be given starter kits to grow their own KT. Because of the quality and demand for these tomatoes, he said that he hopes to make a steady income from them.