Given the possibility of the Davao food terminal opening its doors in Toril this year and the proposal to reopen the Taguig Food terminal in Metro Manila are both timely efforts given the sudden surplus production of vegetables, and the disturbing news reports that excess production is merely discarded since farmgate prices have plummeted.
It seems that the initial experiment of the Department of Agriculture is working to spur production. Producing too much isnanother problem but is easier to solve.
The next, if not necessary step is to get better logistics in place to make sure that any production gets to the markets and the consuming public in the fastest possible time. This sops up surplus production.
Every time you see a commodity having a large variation in price from one area to another, it means that there is a distributiin problem. Take for example cabbage and bananas.
At any given time the price difference between Mindanao and Metro Manila is twenty pesos.
If good logidtics are in olace the price between areas would be fairly even expect for the retail prices in the producing towns, where prices are understandably lower.
Nonetheless, the solution is better logistics systems, the kind that allows food to be distributed quickly and at least cost to enable efficient distribution to markets at the shortest possible time.
Logistics, of course is a challenge in any archipelago. It is often more expensive to ship to manila compared with shipping to Hongkong from the Visayas and Mindanao.
Being archipelagoes, the Philippines and Indonesia suffer from the same problem of expensive logistics, unlike Malaysia and Thailand, which are fairly contiguous land masses, that allow the same truck to bring the produce to the farthest markets without haiving to transfer or double handle the merchandise.
Thus, it matters that government takes the lead in establishing robust, affordable transport channels that transport and cargo operators can use.
This will include cold storage facilities in key ports and stratrgic areas to allow temporary storage of food supplies while waiting for ships to dock and avert the spoilage of stocks.
Areas like Buda, Bukidnon can be good cold storage points to keep vegetables and allow regular scheduled cargo transport servive to get the produce and transport right away.
This is cheaper for the farmer, compared to the present pakyaw system where farmers need to rent whole vehicles on a charter basis, and expose the produce to bruising and degradation while in transit.
That said we cannot depend on the private sector to invest in this agri logistics infrastructure. We will need to have government establish these facilities to make sure that the user fees for such are minimal. This is where both private sector and the farmers can use these facilities at lower cost
They and we all benefit in the end.
Lets hope that in 2019 the agricultural logistics problem can finally be licked.