TURNING POINT: The Curse of Abundance

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 10 February) – Through the years our farmers have suffered ironically from the abundance of their harvest.

Worst hit by this cruel phenomenon are farmers who produce highly perishable crops, like onions and tomatoes. A very good harvest means a very low farm gate price for their products, an amount that is far below the cost of production.

On many occasions, onion farmers would rather burn their rotting onions rather than sell them to opportunist traders. Onions can really make you cry.

Dumbfounding is the sight of farmers dumping cart loads of red and green tomatoes, which raced down the sloping road of Claveria, Misamis Oriental in angry protest against lecherous traders and over the inaction of government authorities. They would rather waste their produce than let soulless, voracious traders or anyone else benefit from it.

There is clearly a way out of this tragedy. Storage facilities for onions may be established in strategic locations by the government to be run by farmer cooperatives. This will avoid the deterioration of the crop that cannot be absorbed by the market because of the surplus of supply during the peak harvest season. The storage facilities may be able to stabilize the market prices of the product during the lean period. This empowers the farmers in giving them some amount of control of the destiny of their output. Importation then could be avoided and resorted to only by extreme necessity.

On the other hand, tomato farmers may be taught to process surplus into value-added products, such as paste, sauce and juice, among others.

Cooperatives may also be formed to run mini storage facilities and in the marketing of their products.

The sad, repetitious plight of farmers ought to stop. Authorities need to think outside the box.

For the government to focus only in granting ayuda or financial assistance to farmers along production is a nauseating failure in imagination. It sorely misses the boat.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)