With the continuing low price and non-marketing of vegetables being experienced, particularly for Chinese cabbage (Lombok) and cabbage, the Department of Agriculture-Cordillera (DA-CAR) exerts more effort in helping the affected farmers to market and transport their produce to various institutional buyers within and outside the region.

DA-CAR Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) Chief Joan D. Bacbac reported that a total of 18,500 kilograms (kgs) of cabbage and wombok vegetables have been secured by the Division and delivered on January 9, 2023, to institutional buyers in Manila, Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan, and Quezon City. The 3,000 kgs bound for Quezon City for retailing by the DA-CAR were coordinated by the DA-AMAS in the area. All of the said vegetables were hauled by the DA-CAR through the AMAD using the KADIWA trucks from the identified vegetable farms in Buguias, Kibungan, and Mankayan, all in the province of Benguet – the major producer of highland vegetables in the region.

Bacbac added that the DA-CAR has only four KADIWA trucks at present, and these are fully deployed for marketing and logistics of agricultural products, focusing on the low-price ones. Hence, Bacbac expressed her gratitude to the partner LGUs and Farmers’ Cooperatives and Associations (FCAs), particularly the Cacadcadaan Multi-Purpose Farmers’ Cooperative in Mankayan, Benguet, who consistently support the marketing and logistics initiatives of the DA-CAR. Accordingly, the municipal LGUs of Atok, Tuba, and Buguias in Benguet and the Sagada LGU in Mountain Province have agreed to the request of the agency for the temporary use of the turned-over KADIWA trucks to further assist the affected farmers. For the Sagada LGU’s KADIWA truck, the Department has provided the gasoline resources and it is currently being used by the E-CARE, a non-government organization and a partner of the DA since the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, who offered a hand to transport and market low-price vegetables in Isabela and Tabuk, Kalinga this week.

Another 4,000 kilos of vegetables, mostly wombok and cabbage, were also secured for January 14 delivery to Bulacan. Region 4A, on the other hand, is yet to finalize its orders based on the quality of vegetables available for next week’s delivery.

“We will be bringing vegetables to Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. The governors of these places have already said ‘yes’ to our request so we are very thankful that our LGU partners from Regions 3 and 4A are receptive to help us in distributing these vegetables from the highlands,” Bacbac remarked.

In a meeting with the concerned agricultural stakeholders from Benguet, Mountain Province, and Ifugao relative to the issue of highland vegetables, which was held yesterday, January 8, in the Benguet Agri-pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), it was determined that the abnormal trading activities after the new year was due to the limited number of traders who came back for trading in La Trinidad, Benguet from January 1-3, 2024. With the absence of buyers, the transported vegetables, since January 1, 2024, had to ‘sleep’ for two to three days, resulting in the longer cue of farmer-truckers in the staging areas on those dates. The better number of traders was only observed on January 4. However, many opted for the newly-arrived vegetables, including Lombok and cabbage, which were of first-class qualities compared to those who ‘sleep’ as their qualities have reduced to second and third classes.

As per the BAPTC and La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post management representatives, the normal trading activities in their areas are already normalizing as of January 8, 2024, as evidenced by the cleared trading bases after lunchtime and non-cued farmer-truckers in the staging areas in Wangal, Benguet before entering the trading centers.

With the ongoing initiatives to assist the farmers in this difficult time, Bacbac is requesting the farmers to approach the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist (OMAg) in their localities if they have harvestable crops with low wholesale prices for the LGU to assist them in marketing their produce, in coordination with the DA-CAR AMAD. She further appealed to the farmers to help each other and coordinate with the LGUs or the DA-CAR regarding their unsold produce instead of dumping these because food is not supposed to be wasted.// With reports and photos courtesy of DA-CAR AMAD