Food caravan showcases Southern Luzon products
- Marianne V. Go () - March 18, 2007 - 12:00am
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is mounting a food caravan from Sariaya, Quezon to Western Bicutan in Metro Manila to highlight Southern Luzon as an alternative source of highland vegetables and to showcase ongoing efforts to make food plentiful and cheaper for low-income families.

The food caravan emphasizes the consumer-friendly programs of the DA, such as the special food lanes that facilitate the rapid transport of goods from farms to urban centers.

The Barangay Food Terminal (BFT) or talipapa project, which sells commodities at five to 10 percent lower than those sold in regular retail outlets, and the Bagsakan sa Palengke initiative, which aims to directly link agricultural growers to distribution and selling points in Metro Manila, are among these progams.

According to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, the food caravan would showcase Southern Luzon as a rich source of highland vegetables.

"We want to develop the region as an alternative vegetable production site to ensure that adverse weather conditions in highland provinces like Benguet would have no effect on the steady supply of vegetables to Metro Manila," he said.

The Southern Tagalog region produces highland vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chayote, Chinese cabbage, radish, snap beans, sweet peas, sweet pepper and tomato. Its volume of production in 2006 reached 120,593 metric tons.

The BFTs, which were set up by the DA together with the local government units, provide small farm producers and fish suppliers constant markets for their products without having to go through middlemen and other unnecessary trading layers that shave off a portion of their profits and unduly jack up the retail cost of basic goods.

Yap said that more BFTs would be set up this year to benefit some 400,000 households or two million residents this year.

The bagsakan markets, on the other hand, supply goods to BFTs as part of the DA’s ongoing efforts to widen the access of low-income Filipinos to cheaper foodstuff.

Yap said these initiatives form part of the DA’s program to help President Arroyo realize her commitment of social payback to the people by way of her "8 for ‘08" agenda which include job creation, pro-poor health care, housing and hunger mitigation, education, lowering the cost of living, a strong peso, more investments, a strong anti-terrorism campaign and a green Philippines.

Four of these concerns — job creation, hunger mitigation, cost of living and more investments — directly involve the DA.

With a rebounding economy leading to higher revenues for the government, the DA is raising public spending on seed technology and a rural infrastructure buildup in order to achieve agricultural growth of four to five percent this year and a higher seven to eight percent next year.

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