Issue of February 19, 2017

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Last week’s steady drop in temperature to a single-digit in Baguio and Benguet has caught national attention with many citizens expressing deep concerns on the supply and prices of temperate vegetables from the highlands due to frost.

Over time, citizens were made to believe that the early morning frost has been ravaging vast tracts of vegetable farms, brings huge losses to farmers and results in abnormal increase in prices of vegetables harvested in the highlands. We don’t blame them for such notion brought about by romanticized stories about frost.

But there is a better way of relaying information about the occurrence of frosts in the vegetable-growing towns of Atok and Kibungan in Benguet than romanticizing the story.

While frost may appeal to tourists and even locals, caution must be observed in sharing stories about its occurrence, because much as some people are thrilled to experience the frozen dewdrops, a group of people wish it would not occur. Reason? It threatens a land tiller’s livelihood, while providing opportunities for unscrupulous traders to carry out unfair practices.

Even a ranking official added more to disinformation by claiming that it’s a financial challenge for the farmers whose crops were damaged by frost when the photographs he shared only showed garden plots and grasses.

Whenever the barometer in the city drops to an unusual level, people also turn their attention to these Benguet towns. Sadly, the curiosity is confined merely in knowing the extent of damage the ice crystals have wrought to vegetable farms. Buried in he stories about frost are the measures adopted by farmers to mitigate the impact of this phenomenon.

Like relaying any information that matters to the public, sharing information regarding the extent of frost damage to vegetables – through conventional media or social media – should be done in a responsible manner. It must be devoid of exaggerations.

Blown up reports about the natural phenomenon causing massive damage to Benguet vegetables disturb a stable supply chain. Irresponsible sharing of information about frost damage to upland crops is often used as basis of traders in the National Capital Region and lowland areas to jack up the prices of highland commodities even if supply is very much stable. This unfair trade practice hurts the consumers as much as it hurts the farmers.

Furthermore, inaccurate reports on the supply of vegetables encourage unscrupulous individuals to allow the entry of imported agricultural commodities that further hurt the source of living of local producers. Farmers fear these adverse possibilities more than the damage that frost may cause their crops.

Vegetable importation due to a false demand is causing more panic to farmers than the possibility of frost occurrence because they have already learned to cope with the natural occurrence. Their years of dealing with the early morning ice crystals, which are even thicker in the early days, have taught them to devise means to cushion its impacts on their plants. But they have yet to learn how to cope with the deluge of imported agricultural commodities. Farmers have yet to come up with mechanisms on how to combat the damaging effects of imported crops on their source of living.

On a positive note, the more we share stories about the damage inflicted by frost on farmlands, the more responsive concerned government agencies have become about the plight of farmers by providing them with more technologies to help them deal with the concern.

In fact, the occurrence of frost due to cold weather is not always a “bad news” to the temperate vegetable industry, as many would testify that frost, if properly managed, makes vegetables leaves thicker, crispier, and sweeter.

We hope frost stories will rouse the interest of public to visit the upland farms to also learn the plight of agricultural producers, aside from merely wanting to see gardens covered in ice crystals.



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