THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday that it started construction on a P40-million vegetable processing and packaging facility in La Trinidad, Benguet, which is intended to reduce waste from unsold crops.

In a statement, the DA said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar led the groundbreaking for the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) on Tuesday.

“The rationale of having this food processing facility, ayaw natin na mangyari muli na iyong excess ay matatapon lang (we don’t want to have another bumper crop that will have to be thrown away). We still want to convert (the harvest) to value-added products,” Mr. Dar, who is also the cabinet officer for regional development and security in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), said in a statement.

He added that the DA is planning to include a packaging unit within BAPTC.

“One objective would be to have a packaging innovation unit that would continue to promote and introduce packaging materials that are relevant in showcasing new technology and show it to the people,” Mr. Dar said.

The facility will complement the P20-million food processing facility at Benguet State University (BSU), according to DA-CAR regional executive director Cameron P. Odsey.

He said the BAPTC will focus on “initial processing activities,” which includes washing and trimming. Meanwhile, the BSU facility will handle more complicated processing activities like juicing.

In June, the DA announced the establishment of the BSU facility, following reports that farmers had to dump their harvest that went unsold during the quarantine. Mr. Dar said at the time that the BSU facility would serve as a training center for farmers interested in converting their produce into high-value products.

As of June, CAR accounted for 80% of the national supply of highland vegetables. — Angelica Y. Yang