Vegetable shipments from La Trinidad suspended due to COVID-19 precautions
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Fresh vegetables from this part of the country would not be shipped to Metro Manila and other Luzon markets until Tuesday (March 31) after local officials placed the entire town on extreme enhanced community quarantine.
Mayor Romeo Salda on Saturday froze all activities except the skeletal work force of the local government and health and emergency workers, to disinfect the town and to facilitate the tracing of people who may have interacted with a 6-year old girl and a 34-year old woman who have been infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Benguet supplies over 80 percent of the country’s highland vegetable requirements such as carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, beans and lettuce, which are mainly traded and packed in trading posts in La Trinidad.
The Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center will continue to operate but the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP) has been closed.
No travel permits would be issued for the duration of the two-day lockdown. No vehicles would be allowed through checkpoints except for emergency vehicles and shuttles for medical workers passing through the main highway.
Manila traders have doubled their purchase orders to prevent a temporary supply shortage during the La Trinidad lockdown.
But the directive caught many farmers off guard. They were unable to harvest all their crops because they did not receive word about the stricter quarantine ahead of time or were unable to gather manpower for the manual task, said farmer Marvin Kallay of Buguias town.
“My fellow farmers were afraid they might not be able to beat the deadline and put their harvest to waste,” Kallay said.
Precautions against the spread of COVID-19 has given farmers a tougher time to deliver vegetables to La Trinidad as they have to stop at several checkpoints before queueing at the two trading posts to wait for buyers.
More time on the road deteriorates the quality of leafy vegetables, reducing their value when the crops reach the markets.
“We cannot do anything but comply,” said Kallay, who had to pass through three checkpoints before reaching the LTVTP to deliver a ton of wombok (Chinese cabbage).
The League of Associations at the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Area have asked the municipal government to buy vegetables from farmers who may deliver crops to the town on Monday (Mar. 30), because word about the stricter quarantine did not reach them in time.
In a statement, the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture offered to transport vegetables grown by small farmers’ groups to “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” stores in Metro Manila “pursuant to Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s directive under these trying situations.”
Benguet Vice Governor Johnny Waguis on Sunday (Mar. 29) started buying perishable vegetables from farmers who were unable to sell their produce.
“We cannot waste time. With our current processes, it might take a while before government can start purchases,” said Waguis. With a group of philanthropists, he said they committed to buy vegetables and donate them as relief goods to needy families.
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