Benguet prepares for AFTA

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet farmers and traders tossed a giant bowl of vegetable salad at the La Trinidad trading post last July 13 as part of a campaign to promote local produce as they face the unfair competition brought by the free entry of imported produce imposed by the full implementation of the neo-liberal ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).

THE GIANT SALAD. The Governor of Benguet, the Congressman of the lone district of Benguet and the Mayor of the Town of La Trinidad, are donned with a Chef’s cap and apron, pose for posterity with the local officials and organizers of the celebration of the La Trinidad Trading Post Foundation Day. Photo by Candice Mangili

School of Knowledge and Development (SKD) manager Jonathan Micua who supervised the preparation said that the salad comprised of (approximated weights) 1.3 tons of lettuce, marble potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, sugar beets and bell pepper set-up in a 20ft x 32ft “giant bowl”. He said it can feed 2,000 to 3,000 people.

League of Associations at La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Area Inc. President Nora Ganase said the giant bowl of vegetable salad cost around P153, 000. She said the diferent member organizations shouldered the cost.

Ganase said the event hopes to begin a campaign to encourage people to buy local produce over imported vegetables.

“Imported vegetables may be bigger and may look better but Benguet vegetables are far better, juicier, crunchier and fresher that the imported ones,” she said.

Ganase said that with the full implementation of ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) imported vegetables could now enter the country free of tariff. She said that just two months ago carrots from China flooded the market that resulted to the loss of income for many local farmers.

Ganase said they were not able to quantify how much Benguet carrots went to waste two month ago. But she said farmers did not even bother harvesting or transporting their carrots because the buying price was too low. “They just left the carrots to rot in the gardens before replanting,” she said.

Ganase said that imported vegetables are sold at a lower price because of the tax exemptions and other trade benefits importers enjoy with the AFTA. She said that local produce are more expensive because the cost of production and transportaion are expensive.

MARBLE POTATOES IN SACKS. Delivered to the trading post, it is packed and loaded into trucks bound for different places in the Philippines as far as Mindanao.With the entry of the country into the Asean Free Trade Agreement, farmers and traders alike face a free fall in their livelihood. Photo by Noel Godinez
“We have long been facing problems with imports even before the full implementation of AFTA but it is worse now because it is in full implementation,” she said.

Ganase said farmers and traders are also finding ways to be able to compete. She said they are improving on their sorting and packaging of vegetables and comply with the requirements of buyers.

Ganase said some fast food chains and malls are sourcing their vegetables from the La Trinidad trading post.

Ganase said the giant vegetable salad event also hopes to establish the trading post as a tourist attraction to draw in more buyers. She added that it is also part of the first ever anniversary celebration of the foundation of the trading center. The vegetable trading center was opened to the public on July 13, 1984. # nordis.net

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