‘Kamatiis’

‘Kamatiis’

PUMAPALO sa P32-34 sangkilo ng kamatis nang mamaraka ako nitong nakaraang linggo– karamihan sa tumpok na nasipat, kapansin-pansin na hinango sa imbak ng nakaraang anihan. Common practice to prolong the shelf life of tomato produce: pick them at a mature green stage, mix them with rice straws, and store them in plastic sacks or paper boxes.

The containers are then set on an elevated floor of good ventilation with ambient temperature ranging from 26 to 34-degree Celsius. The stored tomatoes can last for over two months and can fetch better off-season prices.

Sad news: Tomato-growing areas in the Cordilleras are having a glut that farm-gate prices are doing a free-fall and buyers are no longer buying the excess harvest even at dirt-cheap prices. Most offered their products for free. Transport costs will likely chomp on whatever modest returns such a glut would afford. The end-user market can hardly handle such enormity.

So, tomato growers are throwing away such excess — over 14 tons, that’s 14,000 kilos that will go to rot rather than garnishing faces of politicos who’ll be slathering spittle and speeches in the forthcoming hustings.

A social enterprise group, Rural Rising has plied out a box-all-you-can selling tack for Metro-Manila buyers who will receive 20 kilos of these freshly picked mountain tomatoes for just P510 on Friday, October 1, available either at the RuRi House in UP Village, Quezon City or at RuRi South in Alabang, Muntinlupa. Delivery riders will also receive a free two-kilogram bag of tomatoes.

I’m afraid Rural Rising must have coughed up a tidy sum chartering a container van plus a stiff fee for the van driver to haul a few tons of the produce, most would simply go to waste.

Sun-ripened tomatoes bring me a dance of visions. Sun-dried ones that go into pizza toppings or some similar alimentary teaser– tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato catsup, even that which lends flawless, satin skin to the habitual guzzler, tomato juice. Yeah, processed products of longer shelf life. Better prices, too.

‘Twas in the early 1980s that I had been privileged to chit-chat with economist Sixto K. Roxas who was delighted to learn I am into agronomy– or raising of food crops. It’s not enough for a farmer to grow crops, so he counseled. There must be the processing of the food crops, no matter how modest the enterprise, right on the farm.

Processed produce entails lesser transport costs, he stressed. And provides optimum use for surplus production– less wastage incurred and provides jobs to a few people on the farm. Processing is simply cooking, even a less-enterprising missus can turn up homemade catsup or tomato sauce right in her kitchen.

The low-technology to turn up processed farm produce is accessible– YouTube and Facebook are replete with help yourself instructional materials.

So, spare me that erstwhile “One Province, One Product” mantra that likely fell flat on its face. Gimme the Magsaysay era FACOMA (Farmers Cooperative Marketing Assn.) that takes out middlemen in the supply chain to sell directly to end-user establishments and household end-users. (ai/mtvn)

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