Two pesos a kilo for cabbage. Four pesos a kilo for cucumber.
Cordilleran farmers were given such cruel rates after spending so much to bring in their crops to the nearest vegetable trading post during the last week of July. These turn of events are crushing their hopes of raising cash needed to buy seeds for the next planting season. They are now struggling to mend losses as their access to markets was cut off for six months now.
A Sad Story for New Gen Farmers
Shereen Umayat and Jessica Dapliyan, two young farmers from Sagada, had a cheaper option for their next maturing vegetables---to let the plants rot in the farmland in order to stop incurring additional expenses.
When asked how much she has spent for her cucumber, Umayat computed losses to be at least P40,000. While there are active programs like Sustainable Sagada and Rural Rising organized to help ease the situation, not all produce in the remote Mountain Province town can be accommodated.
Dapliyan, a former innkeeper who shifted to farming following travel bans, started giving away her cabbage produce for free in September after unsuccessful attempts to sell due to community quarantine restrictions being implemented.
Trying out the Metro Manila Market
For generations, farmers in Sagada and other towns of the Cordilleras have been trading in marketplaces within the mountainous region and going to the lowlands is not part of their regular routine. Now that they are running out of options, Igorot farmers are forced to seek help outside the highlands.
Tapping Metro Manila-based Cordillerans or Igorots for assistance was the first move. Upon learning about the crisis, Christian Aligo, a Marketing Communications practitioner living in Quezon City, started the “The Sagada Harvests Project” on Facebook.
With assistance from Umayat, Menchie Buking of the Department of Agrarian Reform Mt. Province (DAR MP) and other concerned locals, The Sagada Harvests Project was able to sell three tons of produce in its first two runs.
Alongside Aligo are other Metro Manila-based Igorots that include Luisa Gay Pugong, Jenny Lyn Likigan, Bing Podes Laguipen, and Hector Ngales, who transformed themselves into vendors after their day jobs to help alleviate the agricultural crisis.
Joining the formidable force are Atty. Pio and Noemie Jeanet Daoas who now spend their weekends on vegetables trading. With the help of dedicated riders, the couple delivers the goods within Taguig City for only P 20.
A Friendlier Trade for Farmers
As agreed, it is the farmers who set the price of their produce. It is usually the multi-level middle men who dictate the price and get a bigger portion of it in the marketplaces.
When the rate at the La Trinidad trading post for cabbage went down at P 2 per kilo, The Sagada Harvests Project purchased the same at P20 per kilo–- a rate dictated by the farmers.
To further assist the Igorot vendors, DAR’s Sagada Linksfarmers Consolidation Center opened its doors to help screen quality produce prior to shipping. The regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) also offered transportation assistance to help defray costs.
Meanwhile, local food producers Gabay Wines and Food Preserves and Masferre Country Inn & Restaurant have been doing experiments for delicate items like wild blueberry, wheat bread, and goat cheese products to check on the shelf-life of the products when offered in places with a warmer climate.
Contact Aligo at 0956-174-8464 to know more about The Sagada Harvest Project and its list of Igorot vendors who directly source their goods from farmers. Visit www.facebook.com/sagadaharvests for updates.