Truckers resume delivery as vegetables flood Benguet trading post
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines — A million kilograms (1,000 tons) of assorted vegetables were shipped out across the country on Wednesday as the local government lifted the two-day transport ban at the height of a community quarantine to check the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
As early as 8 a.m., 160 vehicles unloaded fresh vegetables at the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) here into larger trucks bound for Metro Manila.
At the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP), 60 trucks formed a long queue for salad vegetables like potatoes, cabbage, carrots, lettuce and beans.
About 50 trucks filled with vegetables lined up at Farmers’ Center here to wait for buyers from other provinces.
Benguet supplies over 80 percent of the country’s salad vegetables, which are packed in trading posts here.
Prices upThe La Trinidad government closed LTVTP and several private trading posts on Monday and Tuesday to disinfect these areas while contact tracing was done involving the town’s first two COVID-19 patients.
Although BAPTC remained open during the transport ban, only a few farmers delivered produce.On Wednesday noon, prices of most vegetables had doubled. Sayote was sold at P45 a kilo compared to P20 on Saturday. The price of cabbage jumped from P14 to P40 a kilo.
Farmers said mass harvesting was done in Tinoc, Ifugao province, on Monday and Tuesday after the town imposed a total lockdown from April 1 to April 13. At least 100,000 kilos of vegetables came from Tinoc.
The bulk of vegetables traded in Metro Manila come from the towns of Atok, Buguias and Mankayan, all in Benguet province.
But the revitalized trading did not calm farmers’ fears of smuggled vegetables competing with their products.
Reports of smuggled vegetables entering the local market in the past few days could hurt farmers coping with a trade slump due to the Luzon-wide quarantine, said Gov. Melchor Diclas.
On Monday, Diclas coordinated an investigation with officials in Metro Manila after traders complained that smuggled carrots and potatoes were being sold there.
Truckers coming from Metro Manila claimed to have seen boxes of smuggled vegetables, mixed and sold with local produce.
Traders said they were worried that the influx of smuggled vegetables, which were sold cheaper than those produced locally, could open the window for other smuggled commodities.
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