LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The full operation of the P600 million Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center that was envisioned to help vegetable farmers cope with the initial effects of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC) remains uncertain admits the expected implementation of the integration by the end of this year, Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan said here recently.
The local chief executive admitted despite the conduct of series of consultations initiated by Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala with the farmers and concerned stakeholders, there are still pressing concerns beyond the control of local officials which have yet to be addressed before the full blast operation of the largest trading facility in the country.
“Everything remains uncertain that is why it is difficult for us to commit a time when the facility will be operational. Let us just be patient in awaiting when the go-signal for the facility will be given by agriculture officials,” Fongwan stressed.
He admitted the contractor of the facility is seemingly taking time in completing the project while issues on the absence of adequate water supply for the trading post and the operational manual have not yet been effectively and efficiently addressed that is why even members of the project steering committee cannot make firm commitments on when the facility will be fully operational.
Earlier, Secretary Alcala committed that the largest trading facility in the country will be operational last March but it was later moved back to June and up to now the same has yet to operate for the benefit of the hundreds of thousands of vegetable farmers from Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao.
Fongwan claimed concerned stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the operation of the facility so that they can avail of the appropriate packaging and processing technologies that will make their produce competitive not only in the local markets but also in the global village.
The Agri Pinoy trading facility was built on a 4-hectare property owned by the Benguet State University (BSU) through the P600 million funding from the agriculture department in order to provide value added for locally produced semi-temperate vegetables produced in the different parts of the region.
It was learned that more than 500,000 metric tons of assorted vegetables are being produced in the different parts of the Cordillera annually and the same serves as the major supply of highland vegetables being sold in the Metro Manila and lowland markets.
Among the semi-temperate vegetables produced in the region include cabbage, carrots, potatoes, celery, bell pepper, beans, pea and Chinese pechay.
Fongwan said agriculture officials must be honest in informing local officials and stakeholders on the status of the trading center so that they will not be left guessing, especially that it was committed to them that the facility will help farmers address processing and packaging issues of their produce which were pinpointed as among the weaknesses of the local vegetable industry.
By Dexter A. See