By Chito Chavez
Militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on March 26 revealed that farmers from Norzagaray and San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan have sold their farm products online with the lockdown in the National Capital Region (NCR) and entire Luzon as the government had imposed strictly the enhanced community quarantine.
A week after the lockdown, the KMP launched the Bagsakan Farmers Market and started selling Bulacan farmers’ crops through Facebook.
Among the crops sold through the Bagsakan Facebook Page include green leafy vegetables like camote tops, snow cabbage or pechay, mustard leaves, banana heart, taro leaves, bitter gourd leaves, and chili leaves.
The KMP said that seasonal fruits and root crops like cassava, banana, papaya, avocado, and kaimito (star apple) are also available.
The group’s leader Antonio Flores assured that prices are reasonable and much affordable compared to the fresh produce sold in groceries and community markets or talipapa (flea markets).
“People are having a hard time procuring their supply from community markets due to strict quarantine rules such as procurement of barangay quarantine passes, long queues in markets and stores, and the delay of supply from big traders. This is our own way of ensuring that both farmers and consumers are staying healthy amid a global pandemic,” Flores said.
Despite the existing price freeze, Flores said that prices of food items in the markets have increased over the past days as a result of the supply chain disruption.
“The online selling of vegetables and crops started to gain broader support last year when palay prices plunged to as low as P7 per kilo due to the Rice Tariffication Law. Concerned netizens and consumers started to reach out to farmers to directly buy rice from them,” says Marco Silvano, project coordinator of Bagsakan Farmers Market.
“We are getting a lot of inquiries and orders for the Bagsakan Farmers Market. As of the moment, we are only delivering orders for fresh vegetables in selected Quezon City areas. We plan to take orders and deliver on a weekly basis for the duration of the lockdown. We look forward to expanding Bagsakan especially as we expect an extended fight against COVID-19,” Silvano added.
While on lockdown, the KMP noted the farmers continue to grow their crops but are having a hard time selling them due to the suspension of public transportation.
“Many sell their harvest to traders at a lower or almost break even farmgate prices. In Benguet, farmers have begun giving away for free some vegetable produce because of very low prices. Some have even disposed of truckloads of carrots which only sell for around P1 to P8 per kilo,’’ the KMP said.
Flores also urged LGUs and barangays to buy vegetables and crops directly from the farmers, which can be included in the relief packs and for use in community kitchens and feeding programs for their lockdown-affected constituents.
Silvano said Bagsakan veggies and crops from farmers’ collective farms are gifts that keep on giving.
“These crops that we are selling are products of farmers’ assertion of their right to the land. They continue to till their farms despite constant threats of militarization and eviction by landgrabbers,” Silvano said.
KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka had launched the Bagsakan Pop-Up Market in 2018, where Bulacan farmers would bring crops to sell during mobilizations and other activities in Manila.