Farmer’s rights advocate calls for gov’t attention to ‘bagak’ of tomatoes

Farmer’s rights advocate Argel Cabatbat has called on the government to address the incidence of “bagak” – or the oversupply of agricultural products after another case of surplus in tomatoes has occurred in Bgy. Tamayong in Calinan, Davao City.

Cabatbat said farmers should not be blamed solely for their decision to discard the surplus stock of harvests but instead should be helped by the concerned government agencies and private sector.

“While they do not want to waste the fruits of their hard labor by simply throwing them away, farmers do not have the means to transport these tomatoes to markets where they can be sold,” he said.

“They only rely on truck-owning traders who have the capacity to carry harvested crops across the country. Unfortunately, some of these traders take advantage of the farmers’ inability to sell their produce directly,” he added.

Photos circulating online showed what seemed to be a large amount of tomatoes that were thrown away due to excess supply. Some of these tomatoes have begun to rot, proving unsafe for consumption.

This comes shortly after a similar situation occurred in Bgy. Kalayaan, Laguna last Oct. 9 when more than 10 tons of tomatoes were disposed in a sidewalk and led to what farmers call bagak, or the oversupply of harvested crops resulting to massive spoilage.

According to news reports, farmers lost as much as PhP4 million because of the oversupply. Production of tomatoes in the country has been estimated to cost farmers P200, 000 per hectare, depending on the variety.

In previous seasons, farmers were offered at least PhP500 for a box or 21 kilos of tomatoes. The surplus dragged down the price to PhP100 per box, and eventually making traders reject the excessive supply.

Cabatbat, who is also a nominee of Magsasaka Partylist, said reforming the agricultural system is necessary to avoid issues and problems such as bagak facing the country’s agriculture sector.

The Magsasaka Partylist is pushing for organized, subsidized, and mechanized farming, a modern and integrated solution to various agricultural woes hounding our farmers and impeding progress in the sector, especially those in the rural areas.

Through the said system, farmers will be taught proper harvest forecast, thereby avoiding cases of oversupply in produce. Professional management teams will also be deployed to check on supplies and proper execution of the new system.

In addition, the system calls for providing post-harvest facilities and equipment farmers will own to make the most profit out of their hard work.

Government agencies focused on agriculture continue to provide aid to our farmers to lessen their burden in the fields, but it is unfortunate that some traders and shipping companies tend to abuse and take advantage of our diligent farmers.

Cabatbat said the government must realize the urgency to address this issue and provide immediate and complete solutions to avoid such problems from recurring.