LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The cold chain project has a great impact on the vegetable industry in the province, providing access to high-end markets and alleviating the problem of smuggling of temperate vegetables, according to Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan.
He said that although the project is of little magnitude and the cost allotted for the existing cold chain project is not that much compared to other nationally funded projects, it has improved the lot of farmers who adapted the technology.
Acknowledging the efforts of the administration, Fongwan recounted that it was at that time when the vegetable industry was hurting due to the rampant smuggling activities that cropped up during the early part of 2000 that the cold chain system was conceptualized.
The establishment of the Benguet Cold Chain project was an intervention by the national government enrolled under the State-of-the Nation Address project to spur economic development in the region.
Funded under the President’s Social Fund and the Bureau of Post-Harvest Research and Extension, the Benguet Cold Chain Project costs P12 million with counterpart from the province.
Fongwan said that in effect, the cold chain technology has added value to the crops, which translates to additional income for the farmers and consequently, uplifting their way of life. Farmers supplying the high-end markets truly benefited, giving them opportunity to expand their market with globally competitive produce, he added.
Francis Ching, proprietor of the John Kenny Farms located in Cada, Mankayan and Sablan, who adopted the technology, admitted that the project has opened marketing opportunities in the high-end market, such as the food chain Pizza Hut.
One of the pioneer users of the project, Ching said that they have been making use of the facilities of the Benguet Cold Chain for four years now. These include the modular cold storage chambers for storing excess supplies from the farm, the refrigerated or reefer vans which are used in transporting their produce, and the crates as containers for vegetables.
Ching said the technology has truly benefited farmers by reducing post-harvest losses, maintaining the quality and freshness, and prolonging the shelf life of vegetables. He said that in availing the services of the cold chain, recovery was almost a hundred percent. Prior to the use of the facilities, post-harvest losses accounted for 50 percent.
Ching said the Benguet Cold Chain Project could no longer accommodate all its clients, hence there is a need to add more modular storage units and reefer vans.
With the increasing demand of other users for the reefer van, John Kenny Farms purchased its own, “Hindi na ako nagdalawang-isip bumili,” he said.
John Kenny Farms is also making use of this town’s P11-million-worth minimal processing plant, supplying high value commercial crops to Dole Asia and Glory to God Forever Food Corporation.
Ching traced his humble beginnings to vegetable farming in Cada, Mankayan and has now expanded to Sablan. In Mankayan, he established a one-hectare greenhouse and an eight-hectare open field. He grows varieties of lettuce, strawberries, and potatoes. In Sablan, he established a 4,000- square-meter greenhouse for bell peppers.
As he has now established his market delivering competitive and good quality of vegetables, market demand is high. He now maintains a lock in price regardless of increase or decrease of supply in the market.