LAOAG CITY – The Ilocos Norte government targets to help more farmers of high-value crops with the proposed establishment of a multi-commodity processing center in Sarrat town.
Engineer Theresa Bacnat, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Agriculture Office, confirmed this on Wednesday following the approval of her department’s PHP81.9 million budget for next year, up from this year’s PHP56.9 million.
“The budget increase is mainly due to the establishment of a multi-commodity processing center to be funded under the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP). We, in the province, will have a counterpart of PHP20 million,” Bacnat told members of the Ilocos Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board).
Bacnat said the multi-commodity processing center is a vital component in reducing farmers’ post-harvest losses whenever there is a surplus of production of high-value crops such as mango, garlic, onion, tomato and mung bean.
She said talks are now ongoing for the implementation of the project in the early part of 2024.
To date, the Provincial Agriculture Office, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and other support agencies, is working with farmers' organizations to adopt clustered farming as well as to come up with a centralized database on the volume of production and to provide government interventions, if necessary.
Government studies have shown that farmers have to consolidate for them to have better access to markets, obtain market information and understand the dynamics of the market.
Through cluster farming, Bacnat said it will be easier for farmers to establish linkages and to have better access to technical and financial support from the government and the private sector.
Lawyer Pancho Jose, chief of staff of Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc and agriculture project consultant of Ilocos Norte, said Wednesday that discussions are now ongoing for the utilization of the government lot of the closed Northern Foods Corporation for the planned multi-commodity processing center.
Meanwhile, the construction of a PHP44.6 million worth tomato cold storage facility has started in Sarrat town, and this will be managed by the San Joaquin Multi-purpose Cooperative.
Through the Enterprise Development Component (I-REAP) of DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project, the infrastructure project aims to address the lack of storage facility during the harvest season between the months of February to April.
During the peak of the harvest season, farmers are forced to sell their produce to traders at low farmgate prices. (PNA)