By Freddie G. Lazaro

LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte -The provincial government of Ilocos Norte had launched the buy-farmer products program to help the farmers sell their products amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, a total of 143 farmers were able to sell their fruits and vegetable products through the buy-farmers’ products program amid the pandemic to the provincial government in which these were used alternative relief

At least 8,093 individuals from the 36 households of Ilocos Norte were recipients of the fruits and vegetable relief goods.

The program is an effort of the provincial government under the leadership of Governor Matthew Joseph M. Manotoc through the provincial agriculture office headed by provincial agriculturist Norma B. Lagmay.

Among the vegetables and fruits procured and distributed were kamote, peanut, watermelon, squash, and pinakbet vegetables such as okra, eggplant, ampalaya, and pole sitao.

The majority of the farmer-suppliers came from the municipalities of Vintar, San Nicolas, Pasuquin, Currimao, Badoc, Pinili, Sarrat, Dingras, and the cities of Laoag and Batac.

Farmer Louie Agcaoili of Barangay Namuroc, Vintar Ilocos Norte, one of the beneficiaries of the project, was able to sell 830 kilograms (kgs) of his bell pepper harvest and 1,340 kgs. of watermelon with a total sale of P36,700.00.

“We are very thankful to the buy-farmer products assistance program of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) because this will help us greatly in selling our products this time of COVID-19 pandemic,” Agcaoili said.

One of the major struggles of farmers during the pandemic is the difficulty to transport their products to the market since public transport was suspended and travel from one province to another is also restricted for those without necessary travel permits.

Farmer Angelo Mateo of Barangay Bacsil South, Laoag City, a beneficiary of the project, expressed his gratitude on behalf of his farmer-neighbors who were all thankful for the initiative of the OPAG- Ilocos Norte as their produce was sold at a reasonable price and on a per-volume basis.

“Considering that our products are highly perishable, the initiative is very timely and necessary. Kung wala siguro itong effort na ito ng aming Probinsiya, malamang nabulok na lang ang aming mga produkto,” Agcaoili said.

Meanwhile, frontliners in the barangay which include barangay checkpoint personnel and volunteers including barangay health workers were also benefited from these efforts of the Ilocos Norte government.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture in the region is also in full support to all the initiatives of the Local Government Units (LGUs) in addressing the challenges of the pandemic, especially in the agriculture sector as it helps to link farmers to available markets within and outside the region amid COVID- 19 pandemic.

DA Region 1 Executive Director Lucrecio R. Alviar, Jr. has been in constant coordination with Local Chief Executives especially on several concerns where the assistance of the DA has been sought to aid farmers in the marketing and transport of their product.