LA TRINIDAD, Benguet August 13—Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol apologized to concerned stakeholders for the failure of the multimillion-peso Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), the largest among the 22 trading centers built by the previous administration, which was supposed to cater to the welfare of vegetable farmers.
Piñol said he is considering turning over the center to farmers “but they must be able to show that they are capable of effectively and efficiently managing the facility.”
The DA chief who visited the P600-million facility to consult with agriculture industry stakeholders said the overall concept of the trading center was good but its actual implementation was a failure that is why farmers refuse to transact business with the administrators of the facility that was built over a five-hectare property of the State-run Benguet State University (BSU).
He ordered the creation of a task force composed of representatives from the members of the Project Steering Committee (PSC) to conduct a study on the outcome of the BAPTC management and operation and that he will make the appropriate pronouncements on what will be the fate of the facility when he comes back after two weeks.
Further, the agriculture official also ordered the creation of a technical working group (TWG) to continue the conduct of grassroots consultations with the concerned stakeholders on the importance of the facility in improving the trading practices for the benefit of improving the state of the vegetable industry.
“We apologize for the failure of the stakeholders to be informed on the actual management and operation of the largest agriculture trading facility in the country which we must all together fix for the farmers to be able to maximize the utilization of the trading center to their advantage,” Piñol stressed.
The DA secretary said that he will propose the establishment of a lending facility in the BAPTC to allow the farmers to have easy access to credit for their production in order for them not to be abused by disposers cum financiers.
It was learned that the credit facility inside the BAPTC can provide farmers as much as P5 million in loans purposely for the enhancement of the production of various agricultural crops with farmers allowed to borrow at least P100,000 per cropping season without the required collateral.
According to him, the credit facility will be aggressive in collecting the amortization of farmers in order to be able to have the liquidity to sustain the expected heavy borrowings from farmers in order to improve their production considering that the loans will have a minimum interest of six percent per annum.
Piñol said the timeline for the proposed turnover of the center to farmers will be indefinite because it will be very difficult for the government to break the bond established between the farmers and financiers for over several decades now.
He appealed to the agriculture industry stakeholders to unite and work together in order to achieve the primary purpose of the trading center which is to advance the interest of farmers in the disposal of their produce.
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