By JOEY NACALABAN
THE government is working to turn Bukidnon into a “vegetable complex” and make it surpass the record of the Cordilleras and the country’s biggest “vegetable basket,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Friday.
Piñol was in Talakag, Bukidnon, where he met with town officials led by Mayor Virgelito Factura and farmers.
There, he turned over a P20-million government aid to boost Talakag’s vegetable production.
He said the money can be availed by farmers by way of a loan and through a cooperative, at an interest rate of six percent.
This is under the government’s Production Loan Easy Access (Plea) which, Piñol said, “is to liberate farmers from the shackles of businessmen.”
Plea is a special credit program designed to address the financial needs of marginalized farmers for fast, convenient and affordable credit. It is being implemented by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an attached agency of DA.
In the city where he spoke during the 1st Mindanao Federalism Summit organized by Hugpong Federal Movement, Piñol said the DA has set aside P170 million worth of loans for farmers in Talakag town, Bukidnon, alone.
He said P150 million can be availed through the Plea facility that offers non-collateralized loans for agri-fishery production through cooperative banks, cooperatives, farmers and fisherfolk organizations, non-government organizations as lending conduits.
Borrowers can avail up to P50 thousand per household depending on the agri-fishery production project to be financed at six-percent interest rate per annum payable within a period ranging from two to 10 years.
The remaining P20 million is intended as start-up capital of farmers’ cooperative/association in Talakag to purchase locally produced high-value vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Piñol also turned over four tractors, 10 carabaos and cows, and distributed a variety of seeds in Talakag.
He revealed plans to build a facility in Bukidnon where the farmers’ produce could be refrigerated before these are shipped to Metro Manila.
In line with this, he said, he would meet with the mayors of Impasug-ong, Talakag, Sumilao, and Lantapan so they could begin a five-year development road map.
He said more aid is coming for Talakag, Lantapan, Sumilao and Impasug-ong.
“The government is here to help you but please produce enough vegetables for the country,” Piñol told the farmers.
Piñol said he learned that in Talakag, a kilogram of carrots costs P55 only, P30 for potatoes, P12 to P20 for cabbage, and P50 for broccoli.
He said he has seen the potentials of Talakag, and committed to provide four units of refrigerated vans to the farmers to assist in transporting the vegetables to Manila and identify potential market.
Pinol said the DA would initially shoulder the transport cost wherein 40 to 60 tons of high value vegetables would be transported weekly to Manila starting this month.
He said he is optimistic this would help stabilize the prices.
“While Metro Manila consumers are complaining about the high prices of vegetables, farmers in this cool mountain town (Talakag) are grumbling about the very low buying prices for their produce,” Piñol said. (with reports from Elaine Ratunil of PIA)