Tuesday, October 16, 2007

DA to set up food "bagsakan" centers nationwide

Cebu, Philippines (3 October) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) is poised to set up additional barangay food terminals (BFT) and "bagsakan centers" in various parts of the country to control prices and availability of food.

Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap said, "to date, the DA has already opened 9 Bagsakan centers, and 13 barangay food terminal (BFTs) in various provinces in the country and it is projecting a total of two million beneficiaries from the BFTs it is setting up in the rest of Metro Manila, other regions, and in the country's economic zones."

In Cebu, the DA here will also put up three (3) barangay food terminals in barangays Pasil and Inayawan in Cebu City and one in Mandaue City.

Eduardo Lecciones, regional director of DA-7 said, these BFTs will the first in Central Visayas and "these will serve as the bagsakan centers of harvest from the various towns of the province," he added.

According to Lecciones, building food terminals is just one of the priority infrastructure projects of the department. "In Central Visayas, we included the setting up of flatbed dryers in the rice producing towns of Alicia, San Miguel, Carmen and Ubay in Bohol and in the cities of Bayawan and Canlaon in Negros Oriental," Lecciones said, as well as the repair of existing small-scale irrigation facilities in the region.

According to the DA, Yap initiated the food terminal/bagsakan centers concept during his first stint as DA secretary about 3 years ago. These bagsakan centers would directly link farm producers in the countryside to small wet markets in urban centers, eliminating unnecessary trading layers that unduly jack up prices of agricultural products and cut profits for small farmers and fisherfolks.

The project was partly funded by the Japan Grant Assistance for Underprivileged Farmers, also known as the 2KR grant, which aims to benefit Filipino farmers living below the poverty line.

Recently, the Mindanao Fruit Council members sold more than 1.4 metric tons of durian in just two hours when it brought exotic fruits such as durian, mangosteen, rambutan, marang and lanzones at the "bagsakan center" at Quezon City Circle. The fruits were mainly sourced from Davao City, Kidapawan City and North Cotabato.

"After our successful trial periods in the past few weeks, DA will formally launch these Mindanao fruits at all Bagsakan Centers in Metro Manila," Yap said, adding that prices will be cheaper than in the super markets.

"Because this part of our market linkage program, a kilo of durian in QC circle was only P80, lower than super market prices of P130 to P150," Yap said.

He also said that the DA also plans to talk with some airfreight companies, and ask for some special rates for the commodities.

"I hope that our fruits will be included also in their priority list because we received some complaints from producers that often their products are being bumped off. I'm sure the airline companies will help us on this," he added. (PIA-Cebu/MBCN)

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