Coops to combat Free Trade agreement-A A +A
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Cooperatives will survive the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).
Governor Nestor Fongwan said the only way farmers in the province can cope with implementation of the AFTA is to form into a cooperative before 2015.
The AFTA was formed by the ASEAN countries in 1993 aiming to increase ASEAN’s competitive edge in production in the world market. It will open doors for intense competition from the ten ASEAN neighbors.
Fongwan said, “Our farmers should now form into cooperatives, like what the Benguet Farmers and Marketing Cooperative did.”
The Philippines is included in the agreement opening doors for products to enter the country, including vegetables, making the smuggled vegetables from China, legal.
The farmers’ cooperative is composed of over 1000 farmers from the province who have decided to forgo the middleman in marketing their products to high end markets.
Fongwan said, “As far as our industry is concerned, it will threaten us, it will threaten our products.”
Benguet has struggled with the entry of smuggled produce from neighbouring nations which go into our ports unnoticed, once these products hit the markets, local vegetables take a plunge in sales affecting the local industry.
Fongwan said, “We cannot do anything about this, the agreement is done, and all we can do is prepare for the challenges ahead.”
The AFTA implementation will push vegetable farmers to make produce world class as markets will open globally for all nations pushing standards and best practices to be world class.
The Vegetable Industry Development Board will soon convene here to talk about the challenges of the AFTA as well as how farmers all over the country can cope.
Fongwan said along with the preparations for the AFTA, organic farming can also be an answer for farmers.
The governor said the organic market is a highly competitive market famers should go into. “We should also fill the gap in demand.”
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 22, 2012.