WE WERE gathered in a meeting last Saturday, November 10, to process some generated information by the support group to the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (Cords) for the Cordillera.
The activity is part of the group's ongoing effort to advance Agriculture Secretary William Dar's directive for us to highlight and pursue a development focus that generates livelihoods and addresses poverty in implementing the "End Local Communist Armed Conflict (Elcac) program of the government in the Cordillera.
Secretary Dar assumed as Cords for CAR on October 3 vice Department of Budget Undersecretary Janet Abuel.
In a previous meeting held here, with heads of offices that compose the Cordillera Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-Elcac), Secretary Dar stressed the whole-of-nation approach strengthens convergence in bringing socio-economic development programs and interventions in geographically inaccessible barangays of the region. The initiative would address the insurgency, peace and order, and other poverty-related concerns affecting these areas.
As Secretary Dar wears both hats for the Cordillera, it came as no surprise when Dr. Cameron Odsey, DA-CAR Regional Executive Director (OIC), extended our Saturday meeting which he presided, to discuss the falling prices of chayote.
According to Dr. Odsey, the monitored current farm-gate price for this highland vegetable was P1 to P2.
I needed a direct feedback about the situation from the field, so I asked Ruben Dulagan, who was present during the meeting to immediately contact a farmer whom we could talk to.
Santos Habit is a producer of chayote from Bauko, Mt. Province. From him, I learned that chayote is now produced by farmers in the municipality on a commercial scale.
He said that production this year is generally good, but added "the falling prices are bad for us farmers."
There was a time when chayote use to grow anywhere in the highlands and was regarded as a "people's crop." Anybody can harvest its fruits and young shoots for free. Soon, it became a favorite vegetable brought down to the lowlands as part of the relief operations during calamities.
In due time, towards the 1990's, chayote slowly became a commercial crop in the highlands of Atok, Itogon, Kapangan, Kibungan, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, all in Benguet, and other highland municipalities of the Cordillera.
For this year, the weather was rather favorable to chayote production. It was wet throughout and there were no harsh typhoons that visited the area. Thus far, for 2019, Dr. Odsey said that the monitored prices for the crop beginning with the peak harvest months are as follows: P8 to P89 (August); P23 to P23 (September); P10 to P12 (October); and P1 to P2 (November).
The prices of chayote for the same period last year (2018) are as follows: P21 to P23 (August); P45 to P51 (September); P24 to P28 (October); and, P13.43 to 14.89 (November).
On September 12 of last year, super typhoon Ompong affected the production and prices of vegetables and chayote in the highlands. This may have encouraged more farmers to engage in chayote production that does not require so much input compared to the other vegetables traditionally in the area.
According to Dr. Odsey, Secretary Dar was informed of the falling prices of chayote. "Secretary Dar has instructed us and the DA's agribusiness units to explore additional market outlets for chayote in Metro Manila through the agency's "Kadiwa" program," he said.
In the same meeting, Dr. Odsey informed us that the DA-CAR in cooperation with some farmer groups, the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), and local government units (LGUs) has assembled a considerable tonnage of chayote, vegetables, rice, used clothes and cash to be donated to earthquake victims in Mindanao.
To facilitate the transfer of the donation, Secretary Dar reiterated the advice of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to send the aid donations through local disaster councils.
In a statement issued last November 3, the DSWD national office said interested donors for quake-affected families may go through the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) for smooth coordination. Cash donations may also be sent through local DRRMC accounts or may be deposited directly to the Office of the Civil Defense-National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (OCD-NDRRMC) account.
Secretary Dar's reiteration of the DSWD advice makes it hassle-free for donors from the Cordillera to donate to fellow Filipinos affected by the recent earthquake in Mindanao.