Nueva Vizcaya is country’s next ‘salad bowl’

A May 25, 2011 press release by the Department of Agriculture
Some 107 kilometers southwest of Baguio City and 250 kilometers north of Manila, Dupax del Sur, an upland town in Nueva Vizcaya, is emerging as the country’s next “salad bowl.”
Five of its 19 barangays, collectively known as KinGBiKS, grow semi-temperate vegetables that can compete well in quality and price with those from Benguet and in the Cordilleras. KinGBiKS is an acronym of five barangays, namely: Kinabuan, Ganao, Biruk, Kimbutan, and Sanguit.
Most farm-families in KinGBiKS migrated from Benguet and are used to planting semi-temperate crops like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, sweet peas, chayote, cucumber, tomatoes, and bell pepper. They also grow other crops like squash, ginger, corn, and adlai.
Majority of the KinGBiKS rural folk belong to the Ibaloi and Kankanaey tribes. They migrated to Nueva Vizcaya when the San Roque Dam was constructed during the late 1990s.
Now, with constant support from the Aquino Government through the Department of Agriculture (DA), the five barangays of KinGBiKS have the major elements to make their dream a reality.
To date, the DA has extended a total of P13 million in operating capital, trading post, irrigation, tramline, and other equipment.
Currently, some 1, 500 hectares in the five barangays have been devoted to semi-temperate crops, but the area could be further expanded to about 15, 000 hectares, said KinGBiKS chairman Marcelo Baysa.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala turned over close to P7 million worth of assistance and interventions to the KinGBiKS Farmers Marketing Cooperative. The cooperative is composed of about 200 farmers with Marcelo Baysa as chairman.
Though organized in the year 2000, it was only during September 2010 (through the efforts of Secretary Alcala) that the group’s potential as a major source of “salad” vegetables was recognized.
Part of the P7M assistance was P3.5-million operating fund from the DA’s Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), P3.2 million for irrigation facilities and a tramline, P50, 000 worth communication facilities, and a pair of carabaos to help in land preparation.
The amount is the “second wave” extended by the DA. In September 2010, when Alcala first visited Nueva Vizcaya, he committed P6M, broken down as: P3.5-M operating capital from ACPC, P1.2 million for a packinghouse and trading post with multi-purpose drying pavement, P1 million for plastic crates and weighing scales.
The DA also provided assistance to KinGBiKS cooperative in the form of marketing and financial management training, a vegetable techno-demo project, and “lakbay-aral” to learn the operations at Sentrong Pamilihang ng Produktong Agrikultural sa Quezon, La Trinidad trading post in Benguet, and the Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Trading Center.
Kinabuan Barangay chairman Teodoro Bumacas, who led the organization of KinGBiKS in 2000, said Dupax del Sur produces about 30 percent of total vegetable production in Nueva Vizcaya. The rest comes from Dupax del Norte and Kasibu towns.
Nueva Vizcaya is Cagayan Valley’s vegetable capital. In particular, Dupax del Sur is the main vegetable producer. The town has 19 barangays, spanning 38, 000 hectares, of which about 10, 000 hectares are planted to various crops. Of the total area, about 1, 500 hectares are planted to upland vegetables.
Bumacas said in previous years Dupax del Sur farmers were confronted with problems that resulted to low production and quality of vegetables like lack of technical assistance, absence of financial support, and poor farm-to-market roads. Most farmers were at the mercy of usurers and traders, hence they were forced to sell their products at very low prices, just enough to recover their production cost.
“All our produce will be delivered to the traders, who dictated the buying price, which was far below the prevailing market price. We can’t do anything, but accept the 70-30% financer-farmer sharing scheme,” he lamented.
Fed up with the injustice, the farmers organized themselves into an association, one each from the five barangays. Thus, KinGBiKS was formed. The cooperative’s plight was brought to the fore during a town hall meeting in September 2010 in Bayombong, where Secretary Alcala was speaker at a provincial farmers’ forum.
As an initial support, Alcala instructed concerned DA units, like the Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS), Agri-Pinoy Trading Center Project Management Office, and DA Regional Field Office 2, to assist KinGBiKS.
Bumacas said at first they did not expect Alcala to make good on his promise.
Now, the rest is history, and they have a challenge to surmount; to be the country’s second major “salad bowl.”