With the continuous rain hampering the transport of vegetables and other fruit crops from Northern Luzon, the Bicol region continues to supply Metro Manila with some of its vegetables, fruits and other foods crops. From July 1 to July 31 this year farmers cooperatives and associations and private traders from Bicol brought and sold their agricultural products to major markets in Metro Manila.

A total of 200, 970 kilograms assorted fruits and 22,685 kilograms vegetables from Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte were transported to Metro Manila. These included 194,600 kilograms of pineapple, 5,120 kg watermelon; 20,400 kg eggplants, 700 pieces coconut, 300 young cocnuts; 700 kg squash, 300 kg cucumbers 560 kg bitter gourds (ampalaya); 460 kg of dried and 100 fresh taro (gabi) leaves and corms; 150 kg papayas and 100 kg avocadoes, 60 kg, patola; 25 kg kalamansi, 20 kg tomatoes and 20kgs string beans. They were brought and sold in Balintawak, Divisoria, Pasig, Quezon City and the Kadiwa outlet in Cainta Rizal. This was reported and monitored by the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) of the Department of Agriculture Bicol.

The pineapple came from Basud, Labo, Capalonga and Paracale all in Camarines Norte. The eggplants came from Libmanan and Ragay in Camarines Sur province. Most of the watermelons, and vegetables such as eggplants, squash, cucumber and patola were supplied by the Agripreneur Farmers and Producers Association, Inc. (AFPAI) headed by Robert S. Buayaban, the Libmanan Farmers Association, and the Uson Rice and Vegetable Planters Association all from the municipality of Libmanan and the Awayan Farmers Association from Sipocot in Camarines Sur province. The other vegetables and fruits like calamansi, sweet potato, watermelon, papaya and avocado and fresh gabi leaves and corms were supplied by the Bakiad Vegetables Growers Association care of Nirma Quijance from Labo, Camarines Norte. The dried gabi leaves were supplied by the Nabua Gabi Farmers Association Inc.

According to AMAD Bicol chief, Adelina Losa the DA- Bicol has been assisting farmers cooperatives and associations in marketing their products by facilitating market matching and providing technical assistance and helping them access loans from the various loan windows offered by the DA through the Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC) and other banks or lending conduits, provision of farm machineries and equipment and post-harvest facilities.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic the AFPAI received from the DA-Bicol through AMAD P2M worth grant under the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita program. The association used this to purchase a delivery truck with lifter which it now uses for its trading operations. Moreover, the DA through the High Value Commercial Crops Program has provided them with plastic mulch to conserve water and suppress weeds.

Another group, the Caayunan Multi-purpose Cooperative (CMC) in Basud, Camarines Norte is also a recipient of a P2M worth Kadiwa on Wheels 10-wheeler truck under the Enhanced Kadiwa mi Ani at Kita Inclusive Food Supply Chain Program of the DA. This coop also regularly brings and sells pineapple to major markets in Metro Manila.

On the other hand the Bakiad Vegetable Growers Association has been provided with a truck by the DA under a different program and the AMAD has facilitated its market linkage with KADIWA outlets in Quezon City, and Cainta.

The other suppliers were private individuals namely; Glen Pajarillo and Rolando Gaza all from Camarines Norte who supplied pineapple; and Jorge Michael from Ragay, Camarines Sur who regularly supplies eggplant to Divisoria.

The Field Operations Division through the High Value Commercial Crops Program headed by Dr. Mary Grace DP. Rodriguez have been aggressively providing assistance to vegetable and fruit farmers through provision of seeds, seedlings, planting materials and other production inputs including technical assistance. The FOD has likewise been tasked by Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla to lead the implementation of the farm clustering and consolidation which is one of the 18 strategies laid out by Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar under the One DA Reform Agenda to Level Up Philippine Agriculture.

The DA under the leadership of secretary William D. Dar is aggressively pushing for the consolidation and clustering approach as it promotes the Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation or F2C2 Program where community production and processing activities are implemented through coordinated and organized value chain systems to achiever increased productivity and income. (Emily B. Bordado-DA-RAFIS-5)