LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Stakeholders of the highland vegetables industry and local government units (LGUs) convened in a dialogue facilitated by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to identify the challenges and issues being encountered by the highland vegetables stakeholders in the region. This was conducted on January 17, 2024 in Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet.
Specifically, the dialogue served as a platform for updates on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Food Lane project implementation, and government efforts to address the situation on anti-smuggling. This also allows LGUs to enable actions or align various programs and projects to develop and strengthen the farmers in mitigating the effects of RCEP to the local vegetable industry.
In her message, DA-CAR OIC-Regional Executive Director (RED) Atty. Jennilyn M. Dawayan said that the dialogue is vital between stakeholders and the government as concerns regarding the vegetable industry is being properly addressed through a proper forum. “As they say, little knowledge is dangerous, that is why we are gathered today to discuss the issue concerning the highland vegetable industry. We are glad that we are pursuing this in a more inclusive manner, and I believe that this is not the end but a beginning of a more fruitful discussion with all the stakeholders. There is a better feeling when concerns are raised properly and solutions are collectively addressed,” she said.
Operations of the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) and La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post, as well as the private sector’s experiences on highland vegetable industry were also presented. According to Ms. Agot Balanoy of League of Association at the La Trinidad Trading Area, smuggling is a great concern as buyers opt to buy the cheaper and more visually appealing vegetables.
Based on the association’s data, 1.5 to 1.7 million kilograms of assorted vegetables are transported from La Trinidad Vegetables Trading Areas to key markets across the country at an average, and doubles during peak season of at least 3 to 3.4 million kilograms per day. But last December 20-30, 2023, around 7-8 million kilograms of vegetables were unpurchased that estimates to P210-240M loss.
Moreover, some buyers opted to capitalize on smuggled imported vegetables through revolving their supposed payments to farmers on buy and sell of imported vegetables in Manila and other markets, while other buyers did not resume the purchase of local vegetables. Hence, farmers remain unpaid.
A proposal on creating an anti-smuggling regional interagency task force has been submitted last year.
DA key officials and LGUs present are DA-CAR Regional Technical Director for Operations Danilo P. Daguio, DA Assistant Secretary for Consumer Affairs Atty. Genevieve Velicaria-Guevarra, Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Services Director Junibert De Sagun, Macro-Economic Policy Division Chief Tisha Pia Dela Rosa, Inspection and Enforcement Officer-in-Charge Gen. Gregorio Pimentel, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Regulations Executive Assistant Lee Andrew Calimutan, DA-Regional Agriculture and Fisheries Council-CAR Chairperson Ryan Palunan, DA-Bureau of Plant Industry – National Plant Quarantine Service Division Senior Agriculturist Vivian Neil Manalo, Bureau of Customs – San Fernando La Union Field Station Chief Jose Mari Rongavilla, Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas, Benguet Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Agriculture Ruben Paoad, municipal mayors, provincial and municipal agriculturists of Benguet, Mt. Province and Ifugao. By CEWaytan