March 5, 2024

When something is given for free, someone has paid dearly for it.
Such can be said about the case of vegetable farmers from this highland region who resort to giving away their produce, whether these are unsold due to low prices or the quality of their crops deteriorated that these are no longer fit for sale.
This scenario was personally witnessed by a journalist when carrots hauled out by the Baguio City Police Office from the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center were given for free to residents and tourists at Burnham Park on Dec. 28, 2023. The video which was posted in the social media account of the Midland Courier has reached one million views and counting.
The act of farmers donating their crops is an uplifting sight to behold. It is, indeed, inspiring to witness the generosity of farmers who, despite the hardships they endure, remain selfless and choose to give away the fruits of their labor.
We should not allow this, however, to continue on, especially at this time when we already have realized that agriculture is an industry we cannot live without. The Covid-19 pandemic should have taught us that no amount of technological advancement will ever replace the value of food production.
A nation that is technologically advance, but cannot feed its people cannot be considered a developed nation.
This is why, as we laud farmers who donate their produce, we should equally call for more aggressive and appropriate actions to address the problems that are constantly bugging our food growers.
On the policy-making and law enforcement side, concerned agencies should stand with the farmers against the unregulated importation of agricultural commodities, including livestock products.
Concerned offices led by the Bureau of Customs and Department of Agriculture should be aggressive in the fight against vegetable smuggling.
Time and again, the unabated entry of smuggled crops that flood the local markets has been proven as the culprit for the sudden drop in prices that force farmers to bring their produce back home, dump them on the roads, or simply abandon them in the trading areas.
For an industry that is dictated by the law of supply and demand, any change in the volume of supply will heavily impact on the prices of commodities, which is why unregulated importation and the sneaking in of agricultural crops into the local markets should not be tolerated.
We acknowledge efforts to connect farmers to direct or institutional buyers, such as what the DA is doing, or the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry in helping more entrepreneurs that would accommodate or process agricultural crops.
These efforts should be complemented by a strict ban on the illegal entry of commodities into the country.
At the same time, farmers too need to have a change in mindset, by adopting measures to help stabilize vegetable prices.
While we sympathize with the farmers in their constant battle against low vegetable prices, we call on them to adopt more sustainable practices, such as sticking to a crop production schedule and practicing multiple cropping.
This way, they can prevent overproduction that is usually one of the causes of unfavorable vegetable prices, while making prices for consumers reasonable.
Adopting sustainable practices will also help farmers lower the expensive price they have to pay when they are left with no recourse but to give away their produce when costs hit rock bottom.