Advice to flower buyers: Look, don’t smellBy Desiree Caluza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—It is enough to admire the beauty of flowers that are grown and made available here for the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day holidays.
Dealers of cut flowers said most flowers were grown here using chemicals that may be harmful should people choose to take in the flowers’ scent for too long.
The flowers come from farms in the villages of Bahong, Alno and Ambiong in La Trinidad and from Tublay town, about 9 kilometers from here.
Erlinda Garoy, president of La Trinidad Cutflowers Association, said flower producers and farmer cooperatives had explored ways to make handling flowers safer.
One precaution, Garoy said, is to encourage flower dealers and vendors to wear face masks and gloves when they package and arrange flowers which they sell to customers here and in Baguio City.
“[Flower traders and growers] have discussed the fact that too much chemical inputs are being used on flowers, and we have been telling dealers and buyers to wear mask and gloves. Some have done this, but there are those who still don’t heed that advice,” she said.
Patricio Ananayo, chief of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) agribusiness and marketing division in the Cordillera, said flower traders had reason to be cautious.
He said farmers were told not to spray pesticides and other forms of chemicals 14 days before harvest. This prescription gives the plants time to shed any traces of chemicals that are meant to protect these from harmful insects.
But Ananayo said there were farmers who do not follow this rule.
“They do it (spray pesticides on days close to the harvest period) because they want to produce the best flowers. But we also pity them because they are exposed to chemicals and they don’t use protective clothing. So the farmers are also exposed to contamination,” Ananayo said.
“Cut flowers are still dependent on chemical inputs because of too much termites and pests. There is infestation affecting flower farms and we cannot do away with pesticides. That’s why we always tell farmers to use protective gear. This advice also goes to those who repackage and sell them,” Ananayo said.
He said a way of determining if the flower is laden with chemicals was to look for white or blue powdery substances that form on the leaves. Inhaling these powdery substances, which are traces of chemicals, could be dangerous, he said.
Garoy said cut flower trading here had been slow compared to that during All Saints’ Day last year.
She said many people buy in retail or limit the amount of their purchases because of the poor economy. Some buy their flowers straight from the farms, where prices are lower.
Records from the DA Cordillera office showed that Malaysian mums, calla lilies and roses sell well on days leading to All Saints’ Day. A dozen Malaysian mums sell here for P90, down from P120, while a dozen anthuriums sell for P70, instead of the usual P120.
Every year, beginning on Oct. 28, the La Trinidad vegetable trading post, where flowers are also sold wholesale, is filled with buyers from Bicol, Iloilo, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac, Garoy said.
But many of these frequent buyers did not come this year, she said.