The Philippine government will spin off the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), the country’s biggest vegetable trading facility, after six years in operation, Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced.
According to Dar, this move will free up the state-funded BAPTC) in La Trinidad, which current operation is being “constrained by bureaucratic government system, hindering its growth, sustainability, and profitability.”
“As a corporation, the BAPTC will become a major player in our drive to modernize and industrialize the agriculture industry in the Cordillera region,” Dar said in a meeting recently held at the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI), Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad, Benguet.
The BAPTC has six main stakeholders, who sit as members of the PSB, serving as the policy-making and advisory board.
The DA secretary chairs the PSB, while the BSU president sits as vice-chair. Other members are the Benguet provincial governor, La Trinidad municipal mayor, Benguet district congressman, and representative of the Benguet farmers leaders’ council.
“With a corporate set-up, stakeholders will be able to optimize their benefits, improve the marketability of Cordillera vegetables, and provide our farmers, buyers, and traders reasonable profit for their produce. Further, it could create subsidiaries to engage in other revenue-generating enterprises,” Dar said.
During the BAPTC board meeting, among the suggested businesses include trading of farm inputs and implements, other agricultural and food processing equipment; setting up of one-stop-shop including pharmacy; savings and loan unit; training and events management; and physical wellness facility.
With initial funding of P700 million from the DA, BAPTC started trading operations in 2015, occupying a four-hectare lot at the strawberry fields owned by the BSU.
The facility was constructed to decongest the decades-old La Trinidad vegetable trading post, which still operates to this day.
Since then, the spacious BAPTC has continuously attracted more and more farmers and traders.
During its initial year, a measly 269 metric tons (MT) of vegetables were traded by 108 farmers, traders, and buyers, but transactions grew exponentially through the years, registering more than 1,000 MT in 2016; 71,220 MT in 2017; 106,000 MT in 2018; 121,200 MT in 2019; and 169,850 MT in 2020.
The number of stakeholders also ballooned from 108 pioneers to more than 40,000 to date.
BSU’s Violeta Salda, who currently serves as BAPTC’s chief operation officer, said that as of May this year, the BAPTC has accredited 187 groups, composed of 146 farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), with more than 31,400 members; 34 buyers and traders groups, four transport groups, and three packers’ and porters’ group, with a combined membership of more than 4,500.
It has also accredited 5,452 individual farmers, market facilitators, buyers, inter-traders, packers, and porters.
During the last six years, the bulk of the vegetables traded in BAPTC includes cabbage, potato, Chinese cabbage, radish, and carrots — come from the towns of Mankayan, Kibugan, Buguias, and Bakun, in Benguet and in Bauko, in Mountain Province.
The highland vegetables are sold mostly in Divisoria and Balintawak in Metro Manila; Urdaneta, Pangasinan; Batangas; and Tacloban.
The DA has provided BSU a grant of P40 million to put up a minimal processing facility in support of BAPTC, and another P40 million for trading and marketing capital for a total of P80 million fund support.
The P80 million funding is on top of the previous investments of the DA and BSU, from 2015 to 2020, amounting to P767.5 million, which according to Salda has generated a return of P16.7 billion worth of traded crops during the six years, benefiting over 187,750 farmers, traders, and other stakeholders.
“In all, we are proud that the Center has continued operating despite community lockdowns due to the pandemic, thus ensuring the unhampered flow of food supply to Metro Manila and other major vegetable consumption areas,” Dar said.
“In succeeding months and years, we will continue to help Cordillera farmers adopt a market-oriented, value-chain or food systems strategy, aimed at increasing both their productivity and income,” he further said.