Misreporting frost damage triggers price hikes, Benguet governor says

Northern Dispatch

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet Governor Nestor B. Fongwan lamented that some businessmen are taking advantage of the misreporting on frost damage to increase prices of upland vegetables.

“It is sad but some businessmen are just using the frost reports as an excuse to jack up vegetable prices,” Fongwan said as he asked media to report on frost damage accurately. Fongwan also asked news reporters to verify facts with the provincial agriculture office about the extent of the frost damage to get the wider picture. “The huge damage on crops and the impact of the frost is only seen in media reports but not in the actual situation,” he said.

He said the volume of frost damaged vegetables reported to the provincial agriculture office accounts to a fraction of the total supply of vegetables the province produced this season. “The reported damage accounts for less than 1% of the province’s supply,” he added.

The governor explained that frost occurs only in several villages of Benguet and affects minimal portions of vegetable farms. He said the total farm area damaged by frost is 1.5 hectares out of the 30,000 hectares planted area this season.

“Benguet farmers anticipate and prepare for the frost season every year. They are aware of the frost’s effect and they know how to protect their crops from frost burn,” he stressed.

He further explained that farmers report damages to the provincial agriculture office and seek assistance as well. “We consolidate and verify damage reports so that we can immediately give assistance to affected farmers,” he said. He added that assistance comes from the provincial calamity fund.

Fongwan, however, admitted that there is a decline in potato and carrot supply this holiday season but not due to frost. He said the strong winds brought about by supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) affected newly planted or just sprouting potato and carrot plantations in November and affected the root crop production.

He was not able to give exact tonnage but he said the buying price is an indication of how the supply dipped. “Potatoes and carrots are being bought from farmers at a low of P50 and high of P70 per kilo,” he said.

But the governor is confident that the supply will be stabilized this January because farmers have replanted immediately. He said they are expecting to harvest towards the end of the month.

Benguet Truckers and Traders Association President Benito Hipolito explained that it is the supply that dictates the prices of vegetables. “As always it is the volume of supply that dictates the price of vegetables,” he said.

He said on January 8, traders were buying cabbage from farmers at P11 t0 P12 per kilo because the supply was high. But the following day January 9 the buying price increased to P22 because the supply was lower. “I do not know why the supply declined but ultimately if the demand is high and the supply is low definitely the price will increase,” he explained.

Hipolito agreed that there was a decline in the supply of potatoes and carrots last December but he said the supply is now keeping up with the demand. He said traders are now buying potatoes and carrots at P50 to P55 per kilo as compared to the earlier P70 per kilo. He said the buying price for potatoes even reached as high as P150 a kilo like sometime in December due to the lack of supply and increased demand for the Christmas holidays.

Hipolito’s group supplies the Metro Manila markets. Northern Dispatch

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