Benguet Cold Chain: Preserving Freshness of Harvests
With its vast production of highland semi temperate vegetables, Benguet province is dubbed as the salad bowl of the country. Moreover, the high-value crops produced here have a great potential in the global market.
This is why cold chain facilities are very imperative in Benguet. And good thing that the province has been provided with reefer trucks and cold storage for this continuous refrigerated handling of veggies from farms to markets. For all we know, nobody wants to buy withered vegetables, right?
The P8 million Benguet Cold Chain was established in Wangal, La Trinidad; Benguet. With financial support from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Department of Agriculture (DA) and with assistance from the Bureau of Postharvest and Research and Extension (BPRE), the government of Benguet set it up primarily to cater to the demand for fresh veggies, especially in high-end markets.
Besides minimizing postharvest losses, one advantage of having cold chain facilities, says Governor Nestor B. Fongwan, is it allows direct selling of produce from Benguet to markets in Manila. Hence, farmers earn more because they could sell veggies at a higher price as transactions with middlemen are reduced.
Farmers can rent refrigerated trucks for delivery to Manila 24 hours a day. Rental prices are P5,600 for 20-footer trucks and P3,500 for 16-footer and 10-footer trucks. They can also use the modular cold storage for P700 a day per chamber (with a capacity of 5 MT) as well as plastic crates for 50 centavos to 75 centavos.
Currently, the Benguet Cold Chain has six reefer trucks and two chambers of modular cold storage. These are not enough to accommodate farmers, especially during peak season.
“We need additional cold storage,” says cold storage project manager Shellanie Molitas, plus “packaging and processing plant although there’s one in La Trinidad, and more pre-coolers in the farms.”
BPRE executive director Ricardo L. Cachuela, on one hand, assured the delivery of additional container van once the required documents were submitted.
Molitas admitted also that the first three years of the operation did not turn out well. The facility did not reap reasonable returns as it had not been fully utilized.
But the situation has changed. As of May 31 this year, the Benguet Cold Chain Project had a revenue of P1,479,047.83. That’s because the average utilization rate of the facilities increased.
“They were no longer interested to allocate an annual budget for its operation because of the unfavorable return during the first year of operation. But it is nice to know that despite the economic crunch, the project has finally made its positive mark as regards to revenue in its fourth year of operation,” Molitas said.
By Erwin S. Embuscado