By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo
SAN MIGUEL, ILOILO — Upland farmers in Panay now have a direct link to consumers with the completion of the P11.8-million Local Food Terminal (LFT) here, which also has a solar-powered cold storage facility.
The LFT is part of the Korea International Cooperation Agency’s (KOICA) Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project (PIU-SRDP) with the Department of Agriculture-Western Visayas (DA-6).
The program includes an office and training facility within the terminal and delivery vehicles.
“The purpose of the project is to help the farmers so that they can save money particularly in searching for buyers. During their harvest they are assured of sure buyers and ang income ara na dayon (the income is immediate),” said Ricardo P. Doce, president of the Federated Farmers Association of San Miguel, during the LFT’s inauguration last Feb. 7.
Jose Pepe Caoyonan, chairman of the San Miguel Farmers’ Cooperative, said the project means lower costs for bringing their farm products to Iloilo City, the main urban market in Panay.
“Farmers will have reduced expenses in transporting their product to the city. Originally, added expenses for the farmers would include transport, stalls, and labor,” he said.
The establishment of the LFT is also expected to eliminate middlemen, who have been dictating farm gate prices, according to Maria Teresa T. Solis, head of the DA-6 Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division.
“Usually, the traders are the ones dictating the price. The situation gets worse when farmers owe debt to the traders. As a result, whatever price the traders will dictate will be followed by the farmers” she said.
DA-6 Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter said: “Before the farmers’ products reach the consumers, it used to pass through several layers of traders and middlemen. Sadly, farmers have no control over the [farm gate] price for their crops.”
The Panay LFT will now serve as the regional consolidation hub for upland products from the various Bayanihan Tipon Centers (BTCs) around the island.
KOICA and DA-6 put up BTCs in Libacao and Madalag in Aklan; Patnongon, Sebaste, and Tobias Fornier in Antique; Jamindan and Tapaz in Capiz; and Alimodian, Lambunao, and Tubungan in Iloilo.
KOICA also provided a P20 million fund under the PIU-SRDP, which can be tapped by farmers’ groups and individual farmers for their marketing-related activities.
Yoon Haejin of KOICA said this project serves as the pilot for the country.
“Iloilo is a model project and this is the first time in the Philippines. With this kind of system, we hope that it can also be replicated to other areas in the Philippines,” he said.