Our primitive agriculture
For years we had pointing out the need for technology to aid our farmers, particularly our vegetable farmers. This pandemic delivered the coup de grace on our complacency about this need. A fraction of the produce of Cordilleran vegetable farmers the past months was transported to main lowland markets particularly Metro Manila, but the rest were just thrown or given away.
One unexpected calamity like the pandemic and the investment of our farmers were wiped out.
A few municipal governments bought some produce to distribute to their constituents. At least this broke the monotony of distributing canned sardines, noodles and some rice.
Many farmers though did not even bother to transport their produce as this would mean adding to their losses.
Our farmers just did not have the capability to extend the shelf life of their produce. Dehydrating vegetables, canning them, or processing them to make them last for years were just unknown hereabouts.
This is not however entirely correct. Years ago, Benguet province invested in putting up a dehydrating plant for those interested to tap the market for processed foods. After a few months, something went wrong with the plant not to be heard of again. Big taxpayers’ money just went down the drain.
This is a concrete illustration of what John Steinbeck, the writer of Of Mice and Men, that anything that ran well was not being run by government. Or, conversely, that government could not do anything efficiently.
Thereafter, no popular clamor ever arose to put up a veggie drying plant again. This could mean no money for it, or that the farmer constituents did not know there is such a thing that could save their produce during calamities of which we are vulnerable. While is quite rare, the danger of landslides is a reality all year round. A big one could make farmers eat dust for months.
If so, there is a need for our farmers to be aware of technological options. So where was the DOST (Dep’t. of Science and Technology) all these years? Where was Benguet State University (BSU) also which was supposed to have been producing agricultural scientists?
To drive home our point, there is that example of which we never get tired of repeating. Our veggie farmers had been producing potatoes for more than a hundred years, and yet we are not aware of anybody processing that produce on a commercial scale for more value added. It appears not so difficult to make ready to cook hash browns, French fries, potato powder for soup, etc., whose shelf life, if handled well, could mean months if not years.
In short, our local highland vegetable agriculture is as primitive as ever.**