On the market glut of highland vegetables
By Dr. Cameron P. Odsey, OIC Regional Executive Director,
DA-CAR, Guisad, Baguio City
January 14, 2019
A market glut on highland vegetables that occurred last December 24, and 29-31, 2018, and January 2-7, 2019 was attributed to a confluence of factors including effects of typhoons and unprogrammed production.
This resulted in low prices, dumping of produce, and income loss by some farmers.
Assumptions and reactions expressed by netizens to this unfortunate event are way too far from the realities on the ground that eventually contributed to the vegetable market glut on the above-cited dates in the local trading centers.
Normally, some of the major vegetable varieties grown in the last quarter of the year are Chinese cabbage, carrots, and radish.
There are other minor commodities grown. For the 4th Quarter of 2018 to January 13, a total of 25- 27 commodities (major and minor) were monitored to have been traded at the La Trinidad Trading Post.
Chinese cabbage, carrots, and radish were specifically highlighted and figured in the blogs and photos in social media posts for overproduction and consequently dumping by affected farmers.
The total production for these commodities under normal conditions based on consolidated data from the Provincial Local Government Unit (PLGU) of Benguet is 50,788 metric tons in 2017.
In 2018, production total was 42, 729 metric tons. Production decreased for the above commodities by 8,059 metric tons as a direct effect of Super Typhoons Ompong and Rosita and the monsoon rains that lasted for almost the whole month of August.
Normally, farmers plant their crops targeting the Christmas Season when high demand and good prices are expected for their produce. After the holidays, the demand and prices start to go down and stabilize.
Climate change is affecting agricultural production cycles in a number of unexpected ways.
For instance, Super Typhoons Ompong and Rosita that hit the Cordillera in the early days of the last quarter of 2018 caused the distortion of the annual planting schedules of the farmers resulting to late planting and harvesting of vegetables that were transported to the market and contributed to the observed market glut. This was so even as the production for the last quarter of 2018 was 16% lower at 19,473 metric tons than that of the same period in 2017 at 23,118 metric tons.
The occurrence of Typhoon Usman that hit the Visayas and Bicol Region on the last week of December also affected the normal trading of vegetables. Besides Metro Manila and some urban areas in Luzon, the Visayas and Bicol are big markets for Benguet vegetables. Around 13% to 15% (180 metric tons) of the vegetables traded outside CAR daily goes to the Visayas and Bicol Region.
The inability of the sea and ocean-going vessels to ply their route and the floods in Bicol, at the height of the Tropical Depression Usman, prevented the traders to come up to Benguet and buy the vegetables intended for both areas.
Typhoon Usman also triggered the occurrence of showers in Benguet and some areas of the Cordillera. This caused the early harvesting of Chinese cabbage that the farmers simultaneously brought to the markets in La Trinidad, Benguet and Baguio City towards the end of December and early January. Early harvesting for the crop was done because, Chinese cabbage, when exposed to the rainy weather tends to rot.
The recent parade of the Black Nazarene in Manila has also hindered the vegetable truckers from coming to the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) to collect vegetables.
And the on-going repair and closure of Kennon Road, the shortest route to Baguio City is also a contributory factor on the high cost of transport of highland vegetables and lack of interest of some traders to come up to Baguio City as the remaining routes are congested by traffic especially during holidays.
Contrary to reports in the social media, there are very few farmers who dumped their produce allegedly due to very low prices. It was observed that on the dates that the market glut occurred, only one out of twenty vehicles loaded with vegetables that arrived at the BAPTC, opted to return home because of low prices at that time.
A validation team created by the DA-CAR interviewed several farmers on January 11, 2019, in the major vegetable areas of Benguet about overproduction of vegetables and the dumping that happened due to low prices. Some 27 farmers and their barangays officials were interviewed by the team compared to the few who complained about the market glut.
According to the farmers and their barangay officials, the traders have informed the farmers of their unavailability during the Christmas holidays.
Normally, no trading of vegetables at the BAPTC and elsewhere is done on December 24, 30-31beacuse traders already fulfilled their procurement for Christmas and New Year. The early days of January are still holidays for most and trading is hardly done.
According to the farmers interviewed by the validation team their fellow farmers, who brought their produce to the market on the above dates, gambled with their chances.
Notably, the market glut problem highlights the need to strengthen the BAPTC and the La Trinidad Trading Post to operate and connect to “a wider market network and institutionalize a coordinated production system based on market demand,” to avoid market gluts.
Meanwhile, a number of activities have been initiated to directly respond to the problem, as follows:
Compensation for affected farmers
In response to Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s order, a validation process is on-going to identify, validate, and provide compensation for insured affected farmers based on their losses and “the estimated value of the vegetables they threw away.”
The validation process by the DA and Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) is expected to be completed in the next two weeks, after which the release of the insurance payments would start, Secretary Piñol ordered.
Field Validation on low prices and overproduction of vegetables
A Field Validation of the Reported Issue on Low Prices Due to Overproduction of Highland Vegetables in Benguet and Other Provinces of CAR was conducted last January 8-12, 2019.
This activity was undertaken in the major vegetable production areas in Benguet and Mountain Province.
The areas covered in Benguet Province are Barangays Cattubo and Paoay of Atok; Barangay Madaymenof Kibungan; Barangays Natubleng, Amgaleygey, Amlimay, and Loo of Buguias; and Barangay Balili of Mankayan.
Several farmers interviewed said they(farmers) understood that the non-arrival of buyers from the Visayas, and Bicol region due to Tropical Depression Usman; and, the heavy traffic in Manila due the Feast of the Black Nazarene contributed to the market glut.
The Barangay Officials of Cattubo, Atok, Benguet supported this observation. They said that “the temporary oversupply during the period from December 24, 29-31 and January 2-7 was due to the non-arrival of truckers and low demand of vegetables after Christmas and New Year celebrations as normally observed.
“No one is to be blamed. Traders have been advising farmers on the schedule of shipment but some farmers gambled and delivered their produce when there are no on-going trading and shipment for vegetables,” according to a farmer in Cada, Mankayan, Benguet. (As cited in the Validation Team report)
In Madaymen, Kibungan, farmers claimed that they are following the crop programming system of coordinated production.
Barangay Chairman, Mr. Homer Teliaken of Madaymen, said that he has been encouraging his constituents to diversify their crops which are being followed up to this time.
The other local barangay officials also claimed that the farmers’ plant not only cabbage but diversify it with other crops like strawberry, potato, carrot, radish, lettuce, and cut flowers in greenhouses.
With regards to the issue of produce being brought back home or dumped due to low prices and oversupply, a majority of the barangay officials also affirmed that the DA has nothing to do with the manipulation of prices. Instead, they advised their fellow farmers to understand and follow the crop zoning and programming being advocated by DA and the LGUs to ensure that there will be no problem of overproduction. They hope that this will soon be implemented in all vegetable growing areas as a way to stabilize market prices.
Media interviews and the Social Media
Several interviews by journalists from the local print, TV and radio outfits were undertaken mainly with the DA-CAR OIC-Regional Executive Director and also Mr. Raffy Panagan, DA Consultant for Northern Luzon, and Mr. Robert Domoguen, Information Officer to clarify issues and set the records straight on the false accusations against the Secretary and the DA for doing nothing for the vegetable farmers.
Meetings and consultations
Several informal meetings were undertaken with the DA-CAR’s partners to assess the problem and explore possible solutions to the reported market glut and dumping of vegetables.
A consultation was also done with a group of farmers gathered at the Strawberry Valley Hotel and Restaurant, La Trinidad, Benguet. The DA-CAR senior staff headed by Dr. Odsey and Mr. Panagan explained to the farmers the accomplishments of the DA under the leadership of Secretary Piñol for the vegetable industry, Benguet Province and the Cordillera as a whole.
It is hoped that the conduct of forums and consultations ahead will result in an agreement on the institutionalization of a crop zoning and programming for highland vegetables. This is seen to address a number of marketing concerns, particularly market gluts.
Monthly Standing Crop Surveys
The local government units (LGUs) monitor and undertake monthly standing crop surveys. These surveys are used mainly as a tool to assess damage during calamities and occurrences of pest and diseases, among others. It can certainly be utilized to advise farmers on crops planted by other farmers in the neighboring barangays and towns of the province. In effect, the sharing of this information through the local government units (LGUs), radio broadcasts, and farmer convocations will help them make better and wise decisions on what crops to plant and avoid the occurrences of market gluts in the future.
A shared sentiment
Arising from the brief information campaign that the DA-CAR has mounted, is this shared sentiment from our farmers. They are grateful to the efforts done by this administration to help and advance the interest and welfare of local farmers.
Indeed, never in the history of the Republic and the DA as a whole, has development assistance and support been poured to the Cordillera Administrative Region, than now, with an average budget allocation of over PHP 1 billion annually, in the last three years. -###-