DESPITE the issues and challenges in the vegetable industry in the Philippines and the continuous decline in the area of land utilized, vegetable farmers continue to strive by organizing themselves into a group to help each other and boost production.
One of the biggest advocacy groups for vegetables in the country is the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (Vicsmin), a non-profit, non-stock organization of vegetable stakeholders in Davao region. The group started in July 2000, composed of vegetable industry stakeholders from Davao City, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, and Davao Oriental. It was created with the goal to uplift the farmers and the industry in the region by providing market access and introduce new farming technology.
“It is sad to say that the areas planted with vegetables now are getting smaller. I do not have the exact number but this is evident with farmers now converting their vegetable farms into banana plantation. Most farmers are jumping into businesses with easy money,” Vicsmin acting President Rogelio Gualberto said.
“Areas are actually being cannibalized by some banana plantations. In Kapatagan, Davao del Sur alone, more than 50 percent of vegetable farms are now converted into banana plantation,” he added.
This issue is just one of the many challenges faced by the vegetable industry which is somehow already alarming. These drove the group to strengthen their projects and activities that will help vegetable farmers be encouraged in planting and producing more, especially semi-temperate vegetables like potato, carrots, cabbage, among others.
Gualberto said the construction and opening of the Davao Food Terminal Complex in Toril Dirstrict last May 28 this year will be a great help the farmers because their agricultural products are directly sold to consumers without the intervention of middlemen. This would mean increase of income and assurance of market for their agricultural products.
“The competition will always be there because we are in a free trade market. We have competition from other provinces that are also producing semi-temperate vegetables and even tropical vegetables. The good thing is, we have the biggest market potential here in Davao City because it has become a trading center in Mindanao,” he said.
The Vicsmin council continues to urge other vegetable farmers to join them in this battle, the goal in defeating hunger and addressing food security and elevate the local agricultural industry despite all the existing issues and concerns. They hoped to improve the farmers farming methods using the technology while remaining the natural way.
“A lot of programs were created through the effort of the council like the Gulayan sa Barangay project for sustainability and loan programs for farmers to increase production. These are things that could help the farmers,” Gualberto said.
“I hope that they join us because Vicsmin is a platform that could help them with their concerns. Without this entity, the Department of Agriculture may fail to know minor problems of farmers that could impact them so much and the industry as a whole,” he added.
The Vicsmin office is currently located at the Department of Agriculture - Agribusiness & Marketing Assistance Division in Agdao, F.Bangoy St. corner, Davao City.