Rough Cuts: Helping DTI and DA locate the ‘culprits’

After attending mass last Sunday we did our usual wet market chores while the woman of the house was doing her rounds at a grocery store.

We were aghast to the maximum when we found out that the cost of one most needed items in the market, the “sayote,” (large) costs P5 apiece. Three weeks ago the vegetable was sold by ambulant vendors P10 per three pieces. Two Sundays ago “sayote” was sold at P4 a piece. Last Sunday we felt our blood pressure shot up when the very store we have been regularly buying our vegetable supplies for a week was already selling the “sayote” at P20 per 3 pieces.

We could not help but raise our voice to emphasize our disgust. The increase of that particular vegetable alone was 100 percent in only two weeks’ time. We felt it was like a highway robbery. This time though, the economic crime is done inside the public market. The voices around us were all about complaints of the sharp price hike of wet market merchandise.

We also found out that some other vegetables and market items like fish increased in cost by as much as P70 to P100 per kilo. The so-called fish for the poor, the “matambaka,” a month ago cost between P150 to P170 per kilo. Last Sunday it was already sold at P240 a kilo.

We tried to calm ourselves down by seeking some explanations from the vegetable retailers why, despite the proximity of the market to the source which is the highland farms in Marilog district, the cost per kilo has gone so exorbitant that it is already almost beyond the reach of the ordinary wage earners.

From the almost similar explanations we got we feel that maybe the officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Agriculture (DA) can take stock and perhaps they may finally be able to pinpoint who are crucifying the ordinary man with the high prices not just of farm products but also of other basic commodities.

According to the market retailers we have talked to, much as they would want to commiserate with the buying public, they are totally out of control in determining the prices of vegetables. Primarily, this is because they are only small players trying to eke a living selling the commodities in the market.

They explained that some small farmers in Marilog and other vegetable-producing areas of Davao City used to sell them direct their products. Now, these farmers are no longer selling to them; they are under the stranglehold of big-time “compradors” that are using middlemen to complete their dominance of the farm products trade. These big-time farms produce traders, using their built-in financial capital advantage, are able to “chain” the farmers to deal only with them. That is, that to make certain the vegetable producers do not sell their produce to small buyers, they offer them cash loans to buy farm inputs like pesticides, fertilizers, and even labor cost.

The big-time “compradors” that lord it over the city’s major markets like Bankerohan and Agdao, even offer to give the farmers hassle-free transport of their products as they are the ones that pick the vegetables up in designated areas that are most accessible.

Also, according to the market retailers, every time the bulk supplies of farm products reach the city’s main markets the so-called “jamboleros” working allegedly under the “baton” of certain market officials, collect a minimum of P1 per kilo. This, according to retailers we have talked to, will assure the “compradors” that their items will be unloaded at the most desirable areas of the markets for easier access by their dealers coming from all over the city as well as those who are from other areas in the country.

They added that when the P1 per kilo “taripa” transaction is done the “compradors” have to deal with the labor cost in bringing their merchandise to their bodegas or their respective market stalls. The second level “compradors” or traders that will distribute the vegetable products in the city’s satellite markets or elsewhere, then assume the cost of transport to which smaller markets they will bring the vegetables and other farm produce. And this add-on expense is over and above the purchase cost from the main traders.

And again, added the market vegetable retailers, as these vegetables enter the satellite markets, prescribed market fees have to be paid. But still, “jamboleros” allegedly operating under the “instructions” of unscrupulous market officials, this time collect P20 per sack. Then labor cost will again be paid the “kargadors.”

Apparently, all these costs, both incurred under the legitimate business transactions and the access “facilitation” deals, are factored by the retailers in their final determination of the price tag per kilo of each of their products on sale with some reasonable profit on top.

Given these scenarios in the trading of farm produce in Davao City, we believe that the local government has already the solution needed to correct this inequity. And it is the “bagsakan” center for farm products like vegetables that is undergoing construction somewhere in Daliao, Toril. If this will finally be operational and works in accordance with its defined objectives, then both the farmers and the big-time traders will have a venue for transactions that would be fair for them both. Of course that is on the assumption that by the time the “Bagsakan” is open, the farmers have already unshackled themselves from the bondage of indebtedness to the traders.

Meanwhile, we could not imagine that given these scenarios in the market, still the DTI and the DA would remain unable to identify who are behind the crucifixion of both the farmers and the consumers. They cannot be naïve forever. Or, would the people in the two government agencies rather prefer to be “ignorant,” purporting not to know the culprits for their own selfish motives?



Posted in Opinion