Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 27 August 11-17, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
May Lose Fame as Country's
If President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s agriculture and trade officials keep on importing vegetables and fruits, the province of Benguet will lose its fame as the Philippines’ “vegetable salad capital,” provincial authorities and farmers say.
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- If President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s agriculture and trade officials keep on importing vegetables and fruits, the province of Benguet will lose its fame as the Philippines’ “vegetable salad capital.”
When authorities last month allowed the importation of carrots from Australia, Benguet’s vegetable farmers particularly those from La Trinidad thought they have had enough. The importation, they said, has caused the price of carrots to plunge and themselves going out of business.
As Australian carrots started coming in last month, the price of the local vegetable at the trading post here went down from P28 a kilo to a low P6 alarming thousands of families from La Trinidad and other vegetable-growing towns of northern Benguet.
Aside from carrots, this town valley which is located some 210 kms north of Manila is known for its fresh cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, strawberries and other vegetables and fruits.
In a meeting with Benguet Gov. Raul Molintas, Elizabeth Verzola, director of the Cordillera Agriculture Department, confirmed that the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Quarantine Office in Manila has allowed the entry of small volumes of carrots from Australia.
Benguet, the country's top producer of temperate vegetables, produces at least 80 tons of vegetable products worth P1.2 million daily. These are brought to the La Trinidad Trading Post before being shipped to Manila and other provinces. Ten percent of this volume is carrots, Molintas said.
"We do not know how long this importation will last and if this will be continuous or for a limited time," Molintas said.
The governor blamed globalization which, he said, has caused many agricultural products to become perishable and, hence, volatile trading items. The country’s membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) some years ago has opened the local market to the dumping of cheap farm products –- often sold at large supermarkets and malls -- to the detriment of the country’s own farm producers.
Verzola said that the vegetable consignees are Rustan's Supermart at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City and Tuckerbag Inc., which gives its address in Legazpi Village, Makati City.
The director said that at least 3,487 kilos of carrots were imported by both consignees last July.
Other reports showed however that Rustan’s has begun importing vegetables in recent years. The supermarket chain deals directly to consumers while Tuckerbag caters to hotels and restaurants, Verzola added.
Molintas said that the price plunge is too drastic adding that the move of the BPI to allow the entry of small volumes of carrots is a cause for concern. He said he is awaiting petitions from farmers to be filed contesting the entry of Australian carrots.
But it looks like it is not the country’s vegetable growers alone who are up against the farm imports. Even Australia’s fruit producers have also protested against the importation of Philippine bananas, pineapples and mangoes. Bulatlat.com