AROUND 60 percent of vegetable deliveries made by farmers in Dalaguete town, southern Cebu, have been affected by strict border restrictions between Cebu City and the Province.
As quarantine checkpoints remain enforced for months, tons of vegetables are stranded in Dalaguete daily, unable to cross borders for bigger markets in Cebu City.
Heracleto Revalde, operations manager of Dalaguete Agricultural Pinoy Trading Center (DAPTC), said although throwing away unwanted parts of the vegetables which usually make up 15 percent of the total harvest is normal, it is only now when even good quality vegetables end up as garbage.
In Cebu’s so-called Vegetable Basket, at least two tons of unsold assorted vegetables go to waste daily resulting in huge losses for farmers.
Around 40 to 50 tons of assorted vegetables are pooled every day in the DAPTC.
“Its administrator said that 15 percent of the vegetables dropped here normally go to waste on a regular basis for various reasons such as deselection of unfit ones and removal of unwanted parts (like hakhak). From 15 percent of vegetables wasted, it is now up to about 50 percent or more according to the trading center admin,” narrated concerned citizen Lorraine Ambrad in a Facebook post.
Some of the waste have been donated to the neighboring town of Alegria to be processed as fertilizers.
“We used to depend on Carbon Market where 80 percent of our supply here were sent,” Revalde said in Cebuano.
Dalaguete is home to 8,000 vegetable farmers.
Records of the Dalaguete Municipal Agriculture Office show that the town produces 16 out of 18 types of vegetables sold in Carbon including cabbage and Chinese lettuce.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic the farmers sold vegetables from P40 to P65 per kilo.
These days, the current price per kilo of cabbage in Dalaguete has dipped to P8.
Even at this price, Revalde said, volumes of vegetables end up rotten and are thrown away due to the town’s oversupply.
Expedizitas Lenares, Dalaguete Municipal Agriculture and Natural Resources Office (Manro) head, said the over-abundance of vegetable supplies is partly caused by farmers from other towns like Alegria, Alcoy and Malabuyoc that also sell at their facility.
To solve the crisis, the Municipality of Dalaguete urged local government units, including highly-urbanized Cebu City, to buy from the town.
A proposal was sent to the Cebu City Government asking it to buy vegetables from Dalaguete for its relief packs, but Revalde said DAPTC has yet to receive a reply from the City.
“Even with this pandemic, our farmers cannot stop producing and selling their produce because their lives depend on it,” Revalde said.
“Gastos g’yod. Unya inig abot sa panahon, mapildi pa g’yod (We spent a lot to grow them and yet when the time came to sell, we are at a loss),” said Filadelfo Ambrad, 50, as he shared the plight of his fellow farmers in Dalaguete.
Ambrad, who sold cabbage at P40 per kilo, is now forced to sell them for P5 to P8 a kilo.
While he could have earned as much as P40,000 for 1,000 kilos of cabbage before, Ambrad earned a measly P3,500 from the 700 kilos he managed to sell of the 1,000 kilos he recently harvested.
This, he said, was not even enough to cover for expenses in procuring seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides for his farm and paying for delivery and the salaries of his four helpers.
Not to mention, the time and hardwork that came with tilling the land for two months.
“Although we somehow expected this due to Covid, the situation really worsened because a lot of people who lost their jobs in the city came home and started to farm. That is why there is so much supply,” Ambrad said in Cebuano.
He said the dire situation became even more apparent beginning May 2020.
Ambrad called on local authorities to help the farmers survive the crisis by imposing price control measures.
Ambrad noted that while farmers are forced to sell at a very low price, dealers are able to sell their vegetables for not less than P40 a kilo.
Before the pandemic, Dalaguete would send up to 30 truckloads of fresh vegetables to Carbon.
With border restrictions, low consumer confidence and oversupply, only six truckloads of vegetables are supplied to the public market, Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 Director Salvador Diputado said.
Diputado enjoined LGUs to have mobile markets go to neighboring towns to buy vegetables.
He said the DA 7 will also monitor prices twice a day to prevent traders from imposing their own prices on farmers.
Meanwhile, fall armyworms infested 97 hectares of cornland in 12 Cebu towns and cities namely: Alegria, Badian, Toledo City, Dumanjug, Oslob, Asturias, Daan Bantayan, Medellin, Mandaue City, Alcantara, Tabuelan, and San Remegio.
Bienvenido Acabal, the Department of Agriculture (DA-7) Chief of Regional Crop Protection Center, said that the DA will provide Metarhizium, a type of fungus, to farmers to kill the armyworms.
If the armyworms persist, the DA will provide active chemicals to be sprayed on farms. (ANV / WBS, JOB, KFD)