Bukidnon farmers need trading center for better prices of crops

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 June) – Some farmers have complained the absence of a “bagsakan” or trading center in Malaybalay City and other areas of Bukidnon have put them at the mercy of buyers who dictate the prices of their produce.

Federico dela Torre, a long-time farmer, said he planted cabbage in his 200-square meter farm in Barangay Dalwangan here, and was expecting a good price since vegetables are scarce this time of the year.

But when he transported six sacks or about 480 kilos of cabbage to the bagsakan in Cagayan de Oro City, he found no buyers. He expected a price of P15 to 18 per kilo. But even when he offered to sell at P10 a kilo nobody bought his cabbage

Dela Torre was forced to leave the stock in the stalls to await buyers. The other option was to bring it back home without recouping the P6,000 he had spent from production to shipment.

Neighbor “Jose D.” from the next farm was forced to sell 17 sacks or around 1,400 of kilos of cabbage for only P3 per kilo. A contact in the bagsakan told him the prevailing price was around P15–20 per kilo. But the contact was nowhere to be found when Jose went there.

Dela Torre said such experience was frustrating for small farmers like them. He cited he paid P40 per sack for bringing the cabbage on horseback from the farm to the highway, and P1,700 for hauling it to Cagayan de Oro.

“You can’t see government help for them in marketing their products. The government stops at encouraging farmers to maximize production,” his wife, Dr. Lourdes de la Torre, a college dean, said.

She lamented what she called lack of protection for small farmers like those in upland Dalwangan.

The group of farmers the couple talked to suspected there were irregularities like hoarding in the bagsakan.

“In that case the government needs to come in as hoarders have allegedly altered the law of supply and demand prevailing in the market,” Dr. Dela Torre said, noting it is the middlemen and traders who benefit more in the food value chain.

“The producers are not the ones dictating the price. Who earns? Not the farmers. The businessmen selling fertilizers and insecticides maybe,” she said.

From the point of origin, she said, the local government must assist farmers not just in increasing productivity.

“They must help turn productivity to optimal income by putting in place market support mechanisms,” she said.

“The situation is true not only for cabbage but other farm produce like tomatoes,” she added.

Dr. Dela Torre said if the local government is enterprising enough it can provide a bagsakan “for the sake of small farmers”.

She also suggested that facilities like cold storage for vegetables to preserve quality should be made available.

“Productivity is put to waste without market support,” she said, citing that it is a critical concern because Malaybalay City (and Bukidnon) are largely agriculture-based and styles itself as a city “with fast-growing agri-business economy.”

“What mechanisms and legislative measures did government put in place to ensure farmers are protected?” she asked.

MindaNews texted Malaybalay city councilor Canuto Barroso, chair of the committee on agriculture at the city council on May 31 but he has not replied.

Engr. Alson Quimba, Bukidnon provincial agriculturist, admitted that aside from the “tabo” (market day) every Saturday and Sunday, “there is no ‘bagsakan’ in Bukidnon”.

“There is also no price regulation aside from the monitoring done by DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and those during times of calamity,” he added via SMS on May 31.

He clarified that price control is based on emergency situations declared by the state.

“Farmers should organize like cooperatives so they command the price. They should also sign contracts with buyers,” he suggested. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)