Senator Imee Marcos has questioned where huge surpluses of harvested vegetables have gone, which have so far amounted to more than 700,000 metric tons (MT) this year.
Despite bountiful harvests recorded in the Department of Agriculture’s (DA’s) Supply and Demand Outlook, updated Dec. 12, Marcos said the destinations and end-use of excess vegetables remain unclear.
“This points to an unknown degree of food wastage and lost income for farmers and savings for consumers. The scenes of vegetables dumped by the roadside or left to rot unsold in trading centers are likely underreported,” Marcos said.
The DA’s statistics show that harvests of highland vegetables like cabbage, carrots, white potatoes, white beans (habichuelas), and Chinese cabbage in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Cagayan Valley Region, and Northern Mindanao helped push up total national supply to 1,064,780 metric tons (MT), which resulted in a surplus of 642,500 MT or a “sufficiency level” of 252%.
The CAR alone reached a sufficiency level of 3,195% or almost 32 times what consumers in the region need, with its supply of highland vegetables reaching 801,978 metric tons (MT) against demand of only 26,083 MT.
A smaller but significant surplus of 100,993 MT of lowland vegetables like squash, string beans, tomatoes, eggplant, and ampalaya planted in the CAR, Cagayan Valley Region, Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol Region, and Northern Mindanao was also recorded, out of the total national supply of 1,701,213 MT, for a sufficiency level of 106%.
“Clearly, there have been more than enough vegetables for everyone’s chopsuey and pinakbet,” Marcos said, but added that the government’s capacity to handle harvest surpluses will remain severely challenged by persistent gaps in the country’s food supply chain.
“The problem is not food sufficiency but food mobilization. Farmer-buyer linkages, transport access to deliver farm produce to local trading centers and the bigger cities, and storage facilities to prevent spoilage remain inadequate,” Marcos pointed out.
“Private sector engagement must be expanded now and be made systematic and sustainable in the long term to mitigate wastage,” Marcos urged. “The KADIWA program can only do so much, due to its limited budget.”
In the Western, Eastern, and Central Visayas regions, the supply of highland vegetables was short by 55,093 MT, while a deficit of 105,574 MT of lowland vegetables was also recorded in the first two regions, with only the Central Visayas managing a yield above its sufficiency level.
“Shortages in the Visayas could have been covered by surpluses from Luzon and Northern Mindanao, with much to spare, if an efficient supply chain was in place,” Marcos said.
“The DA’s challenge lies in greater food mobilization. Beyond minimizing food wastage, jobs in farming will also be saved and new ones created in transport and delivery, possibly even in export,” the senator added.(PR)