After six years in operation, the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) in La Trinidad — considered as the country’s biggest vegetable trading facility — will be transformed into a corporation.
“We believe such transformation is forthcoming, as we aim to optimize the potentials and profitability of the BAPTC through the provision of more cost-efficient services and modern facilities to farmers, traders and other stakeholders,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who chairs the Center’s Project Steering Board (PSB), in a meeting at the DA-Agricultural Training Institute, Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad, Benguet.
“As a corporation, the BAPTC will become a major player in our drive to modernize and industrialize the agriculture industry in the Cordillera region,” Dar added.
The BAPTC has six main stakeholders, who sit as members of the PSB, serving as the policy-making and advisory board.
The Agriculture chief chairs the PSB, while the BSU president sits as vice-chair.
The other members are the Benguet provincial governor, La Trinidad municipal mayor, Benguet district congressman, and representative of the Benguet farmers leaders’ council.
Dr. Violeta Salda of BSU currently serves as BAPTC chief operations officer.
“The current operation of BAPTC is constrained by bureaucratic government system, hindering its growth, sustainability and profitability,” the agriculture head said.
“With a corporate set-up, stakeholders will be able to improve the marketability of Cordillera vegetables.”
“With a corporate set-up, stakeholders will be able to optimize their benefits, improve the marketability of Cordillera vegetables, and provide our farmers, buyers and traders reasonable profit for their produce. Further, it could create subsidiaries to engage in other revenue-generating enterprises,” he added.
During the BAPTC board meeting, among the suggested businesses include: trading of farm inputs and implements, other agricultural and food processing equipment; setting up of one-stop shop store including pharmacy; savings and loan unit; training and events management; and physical wellness facility.
Funded by the DA worth P700 million, the Center started trading operations in July 2015.
lt occupies a four-hectare lot at the “strawberry fields,” owned by the BSU.
The facility was constructed to decongest the decades-old La Trinidad vegetable trading post, which still operates to this day.
The spacious BAPTC has continuously attracted more and more farmers and traders.
“Their involvement in management policy-making and planning transformed them from clients to active partners,” Salda said.
As expected, during its initial year, a measly 269 metric tons (MT) of vegetables was traded by 108 farmers, traders and buyers, but transactions grew exponentially through the years, registering more than 1,000 MT in 2016; 71,220 MT in 2017; 106,000 MT in 2018; 121,200 MT in 2019; and 169,850 MT in 2020.
The number of stakeholders also ballooned from the 108 pioneers to more than 40,000 to date.
Salda said that as of May 2021, the BAPTC has accredited 187 groups, composed of: 146 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), with more than 31,400 members; 34 buyers and traders’ groups, four transport groups, and three packers’ and porters’ group, with a combined membership of more than 4,500.
It has also accredited 5,452 individual farmers, market facilitators, buyers, inter-traders, packers and porters.
During the last six years, the bulk of the major vegetables traded in BAPTC — like cabbage, potato, Chinese cabbage, radish, and carrots — come from the towns of Mankayan, Kibugan, Buguias, and Bakun, in Benguet and in Bauko, in Mountain Province. Produce from other towns are traded in the old La Trinidad vegetable trading post and in Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Terminal.
The highland vegetables are sold mostly in Divisoria and Balintawak in Metro Manila; Urdaneta, Pangasinan; Batangas; and Tacloban.
As expected, prices of vegetables are supply-driven, skyrocketing during off-season and plummeting during harvest.
To temper said cycle and provide farmers and consumers mutual benefits, the DA has provided BSU a grant of P40 million (M) to put up a minimal processing facility in support of BAPTC, and another P40M for trading and marketing capital.
The P80M is on top of the previous investments of the DA and BSU, from 2015 to 2020, amounting to P767.5M, which according to Salda has generated a return of P16.7-billion worth of traded crops during the six-year period, benefiting over 187,750 farmers, traders and other stakeholders.
During those years, total vegetable traded (in MT), gross receipts (GR), and income (I) have been increasing:
- 2015 – 269.4 MT;
- 2016 – 1,014.7 MT; GR = P97,961
- 2017 – 71,227 MT; GR = P10.77 M; I = P5.6 M
- 2018 – 106,024 MT; GR = P21.58 M; I = P9.38 M
- 2019 – 121,233 MT; GR = P25.09 M; I = P10.62 M; and
- 2020 – 169,859.6 MT; GR = P31.66M; I = P11.73 M.
“We are proud that the Center has continued operating despite community lockdowns due to the pandemic.”
“In all, we are proud that the Center has continued operating despite community lockdowns due to the pandemic, thus ensuring unhampered flow of food supply to Metro Manila and other major vegetable consumption areas,” Dar said.
“In succeeding months and years, we will continue to help Cordillera farmers adopt a market-oriented, value-chain or food systems strategy, aimed at increasing both their productivity and income,” he concluded.