LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Local agriculture industry stakeholders are now gearing up for the expected stiff competition with other similar products of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in time for the implementation of the much awaited free trade agreement by the end of this year, Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan.
The local chief executive said concerned government agencies and the local governments provincewide already started putting in place the needed interventions in order to make locally grown products competitive in the world market once the free trade agreement will be in full force and effect.
“Our farmers are aware of the importance of the quality of their produce to be able to compete with similar products being produced by our ASEAN neighbors that is why they are also doing their best to comply with the stringent standards of production in order to be able to meet the standards that will be imposed,” Fongwan stressed.
Lolita Bentres, Benguet provincial agriculturist, noted that among the interventions that are now currently in place are the enrollment of farmers to the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification and the shift from the chemical-based farming to organic farming in order to be able for local agricultural products to initially qualify for the international markets.
Bentres cited of the 44 GAP certified farmers in the country, 4 are from Benguet which indicates that local farmers are not far behind in complying with international standards of agricultural production.
Bentres disclosed the GAP certified farms are Sandra veggie farm and Mary Dolo farm for cabbage, potato, lettuce and strawberry in Madaymen. Kibungan and the Cojuran farm and La Faustino farm, both in Tubaly town,
On the other hand, the provincial agriculturist revealed at least 75 farmers were already certified by the Organic Agriculture Certification of the Philippines to have passed the stringent standards of organically producing agricultural crops.
According to her, hundreds of farmers have already initially passed the first stage of GAP certification which was conducted by representatives from the agriculture department and the provincial and municipal agriculturists and are now will be subjected to validation by GAP experts from the DA central office which will take sometime considering the stringent requirements.
One of the major problems being encountered by farmers who had been subjected to GAP validation inspection, Bentres explained, is the inability of farmers to keep records of their daily routine in their farms for fear that they might be subjected to increased taxation by the concerned local government and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
“WE have time and again reminded our farmers to keep records of their activities which is one of the requirements for passing the GAP validation process. WE informed them that record keeping is not tantamount to taxation, thus, we are optimistic that they will now start maintaining records of their daily activities in time for the arrival of the assigned inspectors for them to be GAP certified,” Bentres stressed.
Further, Bentres claimed local agriculturists in the provincial and municipal levels continue to inform and educate farmers on how to effectively and efficiently comply with the stringent standards of GAP certification in order to increase the number of GAP compliant farmers in the different parts of the province.
Benguet produces more or less 600,000 metric tons of assorted semi-temperate vegetables annually and that vegetable farming provides livelihood opportunities to over 250,000 individuals provincewide.
Aside from proper sanitation within the plantation sites, other standards for GAP certification include proper waste management, practice of integrated pest management, record keeping among others.
Bentres remains optimistic that a good number of farmers will be able to be GAP compliant and organically certified in the coming months because of the aggressive campaign of concerned government agencies and local governments for farmers to be able to market their produce in the international markets and guarantee bigger income that will sustain their living condition.
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