The Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Complex (BAPTC) in La Trinidad, which is expected to open within first quarter next year, is seen by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a pilot model of value-chain approach in developing and strengthening the agribusiness sector in the Philippines.
The P655-million BAPTC, the biggest agricultural trading center to be constructed in the country, is being prepared to become a center of excellence and model of cooperation among stakeholders.
“The Complex will showcase a holistic approach in stimulating growth in the sector through value-chain analysis—that is, we do not stop at production, but we assist farmers in processing, value-adding and marketing,” DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said.
Fast-rising on a four-hectare land owned by the Benguet State University, the complex will include three huge buildings that will house trading spaces and processing facilities for local produce of highland vegetables such as carrots, lettuce and broccoli. It will also include dry and cold storage facilities and a dormitory to house farmers and traders from outside Benguet.
Alcala visited the project site on Friday to personally see the progress of the ongoing construction – his second in less than two months – then met with the Project Steering Committee to firm up the details of the management contract for the facility.
Composed of representatives from the municipal and provincial government, DA, BSU and farmers’ organizations, the Project Steering Committee  provides policy directions necessary to ensure good management and achievement of goals of the complex. It replaced the Project Consortium following the abolition in March this year of the National Agribusiness Corp. , an attached corporation of DA which was to manage the facility.
The DA chief assured Committee members that the complex will be administered by professional managers who will be guided by the operations manual being crafted by the Development Academy of the Philippines.
“The center needs good management to efficiently handle the both the prospects and challenges of the project to maximize its potential as catalyst of improving the lives of vegetable farmers in the cordilleras, and as a prototype for replication in other agribusiness hubs in the country,” he said.
To ensure the success and sustainable operations of the complex, Alcala proposed the inclusion of the project in DA-implemented Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP). PRDP is a World Bank-assisted initiative that includes a loan and grant financing package for rural infrastructure as well as small business and livelihood projects for farmers and fisherfolk in the Philippines
Alcala said DA will also help in the re-development of La Trinidad’s old trading post for other agricultural purposes, such as the cutflower business, also a lucrative industry in Benguet.
“As we are eying to open eight Agri-Pinoy model trading centers nationwide, our experience in Benguet will prove that we can push through with this work to better serve our farmers and give them better access the agriculture value chain, giving them opportunity to progress,” he said.
For its part, BSU will assist in capacitating farmers to manage and self-police themselves, and will also offer professional services such as laboratory analyses of products coming out of BAPTC as part of its extension program.
During the meeting, the municipal and provincial LGUs, BSU, and DPWH Benguet First Engineering District also pledged to work together to fine-tune plans for the construction of roads within and around the facility, including negotiations with private landowners on rights of way and traffic flow.
Alcala said that although BAPTC is not the first-of-its-kind facility in the country as a similar trading center in Sariaya, Quezon had already been established and from which it was patterned from, BAPTC is the only trading center that will be co-operated by various stakeholders, including the academe and farmers’ organizations.
“Multi-stakeholder partnerships like this will ensure that we arrive at sound decisions and plans, and we create a culture of cooperation that expedite our services to farmers,” Alcala said. (Jan P. Dacumos , DA-AFID)