'Too cheap!' DAR boss tells traders to buy farmers' goods at fair prices

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Brother John Castriciones has appealed to traders to stop shortchanging farmers and start treating them fairly.

Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Brother John Castriciones (Photo courtesy of DAR)

This, after Castriciones was shocked to hear that some middlemen have been buying tomatoes from agrarian farmer beneficiaries for as low as P2 per kilogram. He said that instead of lowballing farmers, traders should buy the produce at a reasonable price.

“Sobrang napakamura naman! (That’s too cheap!)" the secretary said upon learning the plight of a couple farmers who decided to just give away their tomatoes to their neighbors as they couldn't stomach the traders' offer to buy their goods at P2 a kilo.

The discovery prompted Castriciones to order Undersecretary Emily Padilla to exhaust all possible means to remind middlemen “to treat our farmer-beneficiaries fairly by buying their products at reasonable price so that they (farmers) may enjoy the true value of their products”.

Padilla was also instructed to help vegetable farmers sell their product at a fair price.

Warlito Ronquillo, chairman of the New Basuit Producers’ Cooperative (NBPC) based in Barangay Pala-pala, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, said overhead costs tend to snuff out any profit from selling tomatoes. "The trucking service fee is much higher than the sales," he said.

DAR had tried to solve the "middleman issue" by directly linking farmer groups to suppliers through the Linking Smallholder Farmers to Markets and Microfinance (LinkSFarMM).

“This is the reason why we are encouraging our farmer-beneficiaries to join or form themselves into an organization because only then they can work together towards meeting the required volume their clients need,” Padilla explained.

Moreover, Padilla said that a farmers' organization is eligible to avail itself of various forms of government assistance, which include easy access to credit; provision of farm implements, machineries, and dump trucks; technology transfer, and livelihood assistance.