Farmers seek Sunday space for veggies along Session Road

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Farmers and vegetable traders from here are asking Baguio City officials to give them a space on Session Road to sell their vegetable products whose prices have spiraled down due to lack of demand.
In a letter to Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong and the City Council, the League of Associations at La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Area Inc. appealed that they be given a “positive gesture” by granting their request.
“We are aware that the closure of Session Road for pedestrianization ended last December 2019, may we again knock on your and your officialdom’s generosity and allow us to sell highland vegetables for the four (4) Sundays of this month of January 2020,” the group said in the letter.
It was signed by association President Nora Ganase and Hi-Land Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative manager Agot Balanoy.
Ganase and Balanoy hope that selling their produce on Session Road could “help create more demand for the vegetables.”
The two said the wholesale rates of vegetables are low and even lower than that of the production cost.
They cited as examples the prices of cabbage and wombok (Chinese cabbage) which have dipped to PHP3 a kilo, carrots down to PHP8, broccoli at PHP10 and chicharo (garden pea) down to PHP25.
Carrots cost PHP40-PHP55 a kilo at Divisoria in Manila, while cabbage costs PHP25, and chicharo is between PHP100 to PHP150.
“Some farmers won’t harvest anymore due to the high cost of transportation and just leave their vegetables to rot in the farm,” the group said.
Balanoy said on Thursday Tinoc, Ifugao cabbage growers, who have no vehicles, for instance, must pay PHP3.50 a kilo to transport their produce to La Trinidad where it is priced at only PHP3 a kilo.
She said the price does not include the payment of porters who carry the baskets of produce from the gardens to the nearest road.
“Just imagine if your garden is far from the road, you have to hire porters to bring your produce to the road. That is another cost for the poor farmer,” she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Balanoy said rates are low because of overproduction and the low demand for vegetables due to the late planting as a result of the rains.
Vegetables should have been harvested by December when the demand is high because of the holiday season, but then, the harvest was delayed by a month and in January, demand is low.
“It was because of the typhoon (Onyok) which hit our country in September damaging the planted vegetables, so planting was done in October only,” she said.
“Although we expected that there will be problems like overproduction and low demand. The farmers were then ready to have less profits or even not at all…I really do hope that the city will allow us to use Session Road,” she said.
In August last year, the city allowed the use of the main road for the selling of fruits from Davao, a request made by then Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who was appointed chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority.
Due to the expiration of the experiment for the pedestrianization of Session on December 31, the City Council has yet to decide whether it will grant the request for an extension.
The Hi-Land Farmers MPC has more than 4,000 farmer-members from Benguet and in Tinoc, Ifugao and Bauko, Mountain Province.
That is, however, barely a scratch of the 130,000 farmers in Benguet alone, added Balanoy. **By Pigeon Lobien, PNA

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