Benguet farmers who are already feeling the effects of the  coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will receive assistance from the government, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has guaranteed.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he would direct the DA’s regional office to help address the problems currently being faced by the Benguet farmers.

“They will get assistance. We will instruct the regional field unit of DA to help farmers.”

“Meron po silang ayuda na ibibigay. We will instruct again the regional field unit ng DA na tulungan itong may problema na mga farmer. So kagaya ng mga buto siguro, pwede naming ibigay (They will get assistance. We will instruct again the regional field unit of DA to help farmers who are experiencing problems. Perhaps, we can give them seeds),” Dar said in a weekly Palace economic briefing.

The suspension of festivals and other crowd-drawing events in Benguet province due to the threat of COVID-2019 has also taken a toll on local farmers following the drop in the sales of highland vegetables.

Roughly 130,000 Benguet farmers supply highland vegetables in different markets nationwide.

Agot Balanoy, head of Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative, on February 28 said that the vegetable industry is experiencing difficulty from December 2019 to February 2020 because of the drastic drop in orders from hotels, restaurants and resorts.

Wholesale prices of cabbage at the La Trinidad Trading Post dropped to as low as P3 for the mighty ball variety, P4 for the rare ball, and P6 for the scorpio variety as of February 28.

The agriculture chief said the government would look for a “long-term” solution aimed at addressing the low demand for the highland vegetables.

“We are elevating our game in terms of monitoring.”

“We are elevating our game in terms of monitoring. We are monitoring the volume of production of commodities in different provinces that can be linked to other markets. So, we will improve our responsibilities in that area,” the agriculture head said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He said the “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita,” which was launched in September 2019, would allow farmers to benefit from a direct marketing scheme.

The “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” aims to establish a direct link between farmers and the consuming public. It is a market system that sells major agricultural goods at reasonably low prices.

Dar said there was also a plan to establish a processing center in Benguet in an effort to address the low sales of highland produce.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Benguet farmers can also have a direct link with the supermarket sector.

“We talked to supermarket (owners) last week, sabi nila, gusto nilang ma-link din sa mga farmer para derecho madala sa mga store mismo nila (they said they want to have a direct link with farmers so they can sell their vegetables to their stores),” said Lopez, who joined Dar at the press briefing. 


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