In a move towards enhancing the agriculture sector in the Cordillera region, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. consulted with key stakeholders in the highland vegetable industry during his visit to the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) on January 26, 2024.

The dialogue included key officials, farmer leaders, traders, truckers, market facilitators, Agricultural Extension Workers, Municipal and Provincial Agriculturists, and other stakeholders from Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province.

Secretary Laurel underscored the significance of his visit, emphasizing his commitment to understanding the real challenges faced by the vegetable industry. His primary goal is to align strategies that reduce the overall cost burden on farmers while maintaining or increasing their income.

During the discourse, Secretary Laurel pledged to translate these efforts into tangible results for the nation, specifically focusing on meeting the country’s expectations of providing ample food supply, lowering commodity prices, and increasing output efficiency while minimizing costs.

The dialogue covered crucial issues such as the high cost of farm inputs (fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, etc.), lack of market outlets for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified products, concerns about the Unrecognized Foodlane pass by authorities or the EO 41, and issues related to smuggling.

In response, Secretary Laurel committed to a series of initiatives, including the establishment of Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) nationwide, creating market outlets for GAP-certified products, expanding KADIWA stores in Metro Manila, enforcing laws related to vegetable and fisheries trading, ensuring the implementation of the EO 41, and providing support to the cut flower industry in the region, recognizing the industry’s role in job creation and livelihood.

Encouraging collaboration among participants, Secretary Laurel expressed optimism about a vibrant exchange of ideas. He called on stakeholders to work together, envisioning a scenario where both farmers and consumers find satisfaction. He expressed eagerness for the crafting of policies that would govern the vegetable industry, contributing to the realization of the Bagong Pilipinas campaign for the advancement of all Filipinos.

Meanwhile, during his visit to the BAPTC premises, Secretary Laurel observed the need for improvements to optimize the facility’s functionality. He assured stakeholders that these concerns would be thoroughly addressed as part of the broader initiative to elevate the agricultural sector.// Leny D. Mendoza