Benguet farmers add to OFWs

BUGUIAS, Benguet — This town that claims to produce 80% of all temperate vegetables in Benguet, has been sending its farmers for greener pastures in foreign countries, the municipal agriculture officer (MAO) divulged Thursday.

Many Buguias gardeners go to work in farms in North America, Europe and Asia, according to MAO Asano Aban, mentioning Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan as among the favorite destinations for local gardeners.

In Japan they usually work as trainees for three to six months. “As trainees, they earn much more than their local earnings here,” Aban told Nordis. He added farmers also learn new farming techniques, especially in areas of agricultural technology, which they apply when they come home.

Many get recommendations from him, being an authority to certify the applicants have experience in growing temperate vegetables. He said the OFW phenomenon in Buguias has been lingering for years.

He said farmers opt for employment abroad to ease the financial hardships in Benguet’s temperate vegetable industry.

No Elf for the local farmer

Aban attributes the capability of farmers to acquire delivery trucks or build concrete houses to their incomes as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“Apay kabaelan ti ordinaryo a gardener to gumatang ti Elf?” (Can an ordinary farmer buy an Elf?) he asked referring to a popular brand of light delivery trucks.

According to Aban, the law of demand and supply and the impositions of international trade have greatly affected Benguet farmers’ income. He said imported vegetables are far cheaper than locally grown vegetables because farmers in foreign countries have government subsidy to lean back on when market and natural disasters strike against their produce.

“Palalo daytoy umayan ti imported a nateng,” (Vegetable importation has adverse impacts on our farmers) Aban said referring to liberalization in agriculture born with the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade of the World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

Fighting the law of supply and demand

Besides importation, farmers’ income tend to dwindle with the law of supply and demand. There are times when there is too much cabbage in the market that farmers just leave them in the fields to rot, causing them more losses.

“The local farmers really look up to the plan to look into the planting calendar,” Aban said, as he clarified the town is getting ready with its report for the said plan in line with the program of the provincial government of Benguet to come up with the provincial vegetable profiling project.

Benguet Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan initiated a plan to regulate the planting calendar so as not to flood the market with just one kind of vegetable at any given time. The project got some P400,000 in government funds in March when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited Benguet.

Meanwhile, Aban initially estimated the typhoon Nina damage to crops at P3.2 million. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)


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