Nueva Ecija farmers cry for help over squash surplus

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Hundreds of tons of pumpkins are left lying around unsold at a warehouse located in Brgy. Bugtong na Buli in Talavera, Nueva Ecija.

Talavera farmer Teodoro Ramos Jr. on Wednesday took to social media their struggle to sell the pumpkins due to lack of buyers.

"Ako ay humihingi ng tulong na sana mabili ang aming mga kalabasa nang sa gayon ay maibalik ang aming puhunan at kahit papano ay kumita pa rin ang aming mga kasamahan sa bukid," he said.

[Translation: I am asking for help to hopefully buy our pumpkins so our investment can be returned and at least our fellow farmers can still make money.]

Rural Rising (RuRi) Philippines, a non-governmental organization helping out distressed farmers to sell their produce, said it earlier estimated a surplus of around 100,000 tons of pumpkins in the whole province of Nueva Ecija. After house-to-house visits, however, it found that over 100,000 tons of pumpkins remain unsold in one barangay of Zaragoza town alone.

"The annual, perennial, hernial problem of pumpkin overproduction is so big, there's no sweeping it under the rug. There won't be a rug big enough to hide it all," the group said.

Abandoned pumpkins are seen in basketball courts with some farmers giving them away for free through the open windows of passing cars, it added.

The group said they have been rescuing Nueva Ecija-produced pumpkins for three years already.

"We've pulled strings and called in favors to help us transport as many pumpkins as we can get—with DA trucks, with Army trucks, even with TV trucks," RuRi said.

To date, 20 kilograms of Nueva Ecija pumpkins are being sold at ₱299 on RuRi's website.

Rafael Mariano, chairman emeritus of Kilusang Mayo Uno and a former agrarian reform secretary, urged the government to buy the overproduced pumpkins instead.

"Kung nagawa ng DA (Department of Agriculture) at Kadiwa sa sibuyas, kaya din masubsidyuhan ang pagbili ng kalabasa direkta mula sa mga magsasaka," he said in a statement on Thursday.

[Translation: If the DA (Department of Agriculture) and Kadiwa have done it with onions, they can also subsidize the purchase of squash directly from farmers.]

Mariano said there shouldn't be an oversupply of pumpkins only if farmers received enough market support and assistance from the government.

He added that "exploitative" traders are to blame for the surplus of pumpkins – not the farmers.

"Dati-rating nasa ₱25 kada kilo ang farmgate price ng kalabasa. Bumaba ito at naging ₱12 kada kilo hanggang bumagsak na nga sa ₱2 kada kilo," he said.

[Translation: The farmgate price of squash used to be around ₱25 per kilogram. It went down to ₱12 until it dropped to ₱2 per kilogram.]

CNN Philippines has sought comment from the DA.