Agriculture undersecretary blames farmers for garlic and cabbage oversupply, but why is it their fault?

Images of local garlic and cabbage. Credit: Rural Rising Philippines
Images of local garlic and cabbage. Credit: Rural Rising Philippines

While some of the country’s staple goods are bearing the brunt of inflation due to supply shortages, at the same time, some farmers are suffering due to an oversupply of their crops such as cabbage and garlic that is tanking their market prices. 

Who is to blame for this situation? According to Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, the farmers themselves.

As reported by One News, Panganiban made the incendiary statement in a radio interview, where he blamed our nation’s farmers for “not thinking about the market” when planting their crops.

His comment came in response to reports that the northern province of Batanes produced a surplus of 25 metric tons of garlic, prompting Governor Marilou Cayco to plead with buyers to purchase their supply.  

In Benguet, a video from a farmer showing him and his brothers chopping off heads of cabbage to let them rot as fertilizer for the next planting season went viral on TikTok.

The farmer said they opted to destroy their cabbage harvest rather than try to sell them due to their area’s meager trading prices of PHP5 a kilogram (US$0.087). In Metro Manila, cabbage is being sold at PHP60 a kilogram (US$1.05) — but he said getting a truck to haul their harvest to even the nearest market would only further increase their losses.

@jans1ay ♬ original sound – Jan Slay

The undersecretary blamed farmers for planting crops without thinking about the market for their produce.

“The farmers plant their regular crops during this season but they do not think about whether they have a market to sell it to,” Panganiban said of the farmers in Batanes, adding that farmers in Benguet faced a similar situation.

Produce surpluses are usually caused by middlemen rejecting the farmers’ harvests.

READ: 4 tons at risk: Surplus forces farmers to throw away their tomatoes. Here’s how you can help

According to Panganiban, farmers should learn how to plant alternative crops as a substitute and said the Department of Agriculture plans to provide them with these substitutes.

“We will give them a product that will substitute the crop they are planting this season so they are not at the mercy of the middlemen,” the undersecretary said.

While the undersecretary’s suggestion sounds good in theory, we can’t help but think of this Bea Alonzo meme:

Again, why is this the farmers’ fault? Farmers are not fortune tellers, and they don’t have a crystal ball that can help them predict what the market conditions will be come harvest time.

Plus, with the country importing crops left and right, even when there is a clear and abundant supply of produce locally, the government could do more to ensure the even distribution of these crops across the country instead of forcing farmers to switch to alternatives.

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