Small vegetable farmers organized to access direct market

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 Aug) – Small vegetable farmers in Mindanao are being organized in their areas to have a direct access to markets and thus reap the profits instead of the middlemen, who have financial capital to buy agricultural products at farm gate prices, transport and sell these to public markets, malls, restaurants and other traders.

Ray Acain, president of the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMIN), said Thursday that vegetable farmers in the cities of Tagum and Cagayan de Oro (CDO) are already organized in formal associations and are able to hire their marketing officer to look for direct markets.

“This is what we are trying to do with our farmers in Davao, and they are still looking for a center that will serve as their outlet,” he told MindaNews.

Val Turtur, VICSMIN vice president, said during the Mindanao Vegetable Congress held here August 13-14 that a great number of vegetable farmers have difficulty in market accessibility.

“The middlemen are still in control. That’s why the income of farmers remain very low and they continue to suffer from poverty,” he said, citing that currently they go through two to three intermediaries such as the “jambolero”, “biyahero” and trader.

He noted that the vegetable congress aimed to teach farmers how to access institutional markets such as supermarkets, hospitals, big canteens and public markets, among others.

Teolulo Pasawa, city director of trade and industry, said it is the middlemen getting most of the profit, noting that government can look on the experience of North Mindanao in addressing this, where farmers were organized into marketing associations and the association now serves as middlemen.

Dr. Rodolfo Estigoy, chief science research specialist of the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization (DA-PhilMech), agreed that middlemen still dominate the marketing system of vegetables, especially in semi-temperate areas like Benguet.

He said as a response, Philmech established a cold chain center in Benguet to provide custom services for cold storage and transport, adding that similar technology was set up in the Northern Mindanao region.

“The Northern Mindanao vegetables in CDO have a cold chain system so farmers can also avail of the services. Bukidnon vegetable farmers now have better leverage over middlemen,” he said.

He also cited the supply chain study of vegetables in Mindanao conducted by Dr. Sylvia Concepcion of the University of the Philippines Mindanao, which further describes the existing marketing system of vegetables.

Aside from middlemen, there are also consolidators or capitalists who buy their products to supply institutional markets who dictate the prices of vegetables, according to Artemio Dungog, 46, a wholesale retailer of vegetables in Bankerohan public market here.

He said farmers and retailers like him are mostly at a losing end when there is an oversupply of vegetables because consolidators can demand to buy their products at lower prices.

City agriculturist Leo Avila earlier said the city government is looking at improving vegetable recipes to increase the vegetable consumption, especially of children, as a way to address the marketability of small farmers’ products.

Citing the marketing and technical needs of vegetable farmers in rural areas, he said there should be an increase of awareness on vegetable consumption so there would be more market for the farmers’ produce.

Antonio Flores, spokesperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a national organization of farmers, said vegetable farmers continue to struggle with low income and are being burdened with high prices of farm inputs, while big capitalists dictate the prices of their products.

He said the government has to continue its subsidy to local farmers in terms of farm inputs and technical services, adding that the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which is being lobbied by the progressive bloc in the House of Representatives, has to be enacted to help poor farmers by implementing a genuine agrarian reform in order to achieve sustainable agriculture. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)