Vegetable farmers hope for gov’t support as they cope with COVID-19  

TALAKAG, Bukidnon (MindaNews / 13 December) —  Leonardo Jacinto watched the hired workers plant carrot seedlings on the one-hectare land he rented in Barangay Miarayon on Thursday, not far from where a vegetable festival was held.

The 47-year-old vegetable farmer who hails from the Mountain Province, hopes he can turn in a profit when he sells the harvest in the market.

Jacinto suffered a string of losses after the COVID-19 pandemic forced local governments to impose lockdowns.

Children join their mother in planting carrots in Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon on December 10, 2020. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“I was about to deliver 40 sacks of pepper to the market (in Cagayan de Oro City) when the lockdown was implemented. My cargo could not get through so I had to dump them on the road,” he said.

He recalled how deeply sad  he was seeing all the vegetables thrown on the side of the highway by other farmers bound for  the vegetable market in Barangay Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.

“It was a waste. Many of the farmer growers lost a lot of money,” he said.

Jacinto is one of  hundreds of  farmers growing vegetables on rented land in Miarayon.

Bukidnon province imposed a strict lockdown on its borders with adjoining provinces and cities from March to May this year.

In their health protocols, the provincial government directed owners of vehicles and trucks with agricultural products not to travel outside Bukidnon.

Those coming from other provinces and cities were barred from entering the province.

At first Jacinto resorted to “double hauling” their vegetables by unloading at the border for laborers to carry to waiting trucks that would bring them to Cagayan de Oro.

Jacinto and the farmers discarded it later because the cost of labor was too high.

Talakag Mayor Virgito Factura said the first three months of the lockdown nearly devastated the farmers in Miarayon and other barangays in his town.

Factura said Talakag has 2,974 hectares planted to vegetables and produces 30 tons a week.

The town of Talakag along with Impasug-ong, Lantapan and Sumilao are considered the top vegetable producers in Northern Mindanao.

HARVESTING CARROTS. Children in Lirongan, Talakag, Bukidnon join their parents in harvesting carrots on Sunday, 23 February 2020. The rain-fed field has yielded smaller carrots because rain has become scarce these days. The carrots cost 30 pesos per kilo but in the vegetable stalls in Marahan, Davao City, it is 60 pesos a kilo and even more expensive downtown. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Vegetable production from these municipalities are being shipped to Cagayan de Oro, Manila, Cebu and other cities.

Roel Sabornido of the Miarayon Highland Farmers Association said most of the farmers lost from 10,000 to 50,000 pesos when they were not able to deliver their crops to the Bulua vegetable market in Cagayan de Oro.

“Some of the financiers or wholesalers even lost millions of pesos,” he said.

While the lockdown protocols were relaxed in June, farmers were able to start planting only in October as many of them had to secure loans from financiers.

“We had to secure money from the financiers because there is no government loan facility available for us here,” Sabornido said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)