January 3, 2024
MANILA – Hundreds of kilos of carrots from farms in Benguet province were distributed for free at Burnham Park here in the run-up to the New Year following an oversupply of the crop during the holiday season that has caused a strain on local farmers.
The surplus of carrots due to the increased production has been exacerbated by reports of unabated smuggling of vegetables that continue to hurt local growers, said Agot Balanoy, spokesperson for the Benguet-based League of Associations at La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Areas Inc. (LTVTA).
Balanoy said that although the newly harvested carrots were given away for free on Dec. 29 last year, she described it as an “unfortunate” move of the farmers who are faced with losses due to the glut.
“We feel sorry for our small-scale farmers who borrowed money for their production costs only to end up donating or throwing away their produce,” she told the Inquirer in an interview on Tuesday.
Balanoy added: “How will they (farmers) survive for the next two to three months? They will be forced to borrow money again. This is why farmers end up buried in debt.”
Data gathered by the LTVTA showed that about 8 million kilos of assorted highland vegetables worth about P240 million were unsold during the Christmas holiday from Dec. 20, 2023 to Dec. 30, 2023, which was supposed to be the peak season for the local vegetable industry. According to Rural Rising Philippines (RuRi), a nonprofit group helping distressed local farmers, the price of carrots at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post in Benguet has dropped to an all-time low of P1 per kilo during the holiday season.
Based on the monitoring of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the wholesale price of carrots during the holidays was between P20 and P25 per kilo.
“This [drop in prices] forced highland farmers to dump their carrots, or in this case, give them away,” RuRi said in a Facebook post.
The group noted that it was not “generosity” that drove the farmers to give their crops but the “sad state” of the local farming industry.RuRi called on the public to help buy the farmers’ carrots that would be harvested next week to avoid a glut.
Balanoy said some of the unsold carrots and other vegetables were donated to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Philippine National Police, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the DA.
According to LTVTA, many of the produce were left unharvested.
“There were farmers who decided not to harvest and just let their crops rot in the gardens,” Balanoy said.
Last week, Balanoy and her group asked the government to address the rampant smuggling of vegetables, mostly from China, during the holiday season after traders and growers complained about the low demand.
She said the illegal entry of vegetables is “killing the vegetable and agricultural industry,” especially the farmers.
Records from the DA showed that Benguet and other areas in the Cordillera region supply 80 percent of the daily salad vegetable demand in the National Capital Region.