When the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic forced restaurants to shut down, Filipino farmers were left with no one to sell their harvest to. There was also the logistical problem of transporting the produce from the farms to the cities.
It was a setback that could have crippled the agriculture industry. Fortunately, two relentless individuals came to the rescue.
The Luzon lockdown brought to life Dom Hernandez’s Bangon Benguet program. “This idea was conceived back in 2014,” he says. “But we were able to realize the plan only now due to the quarantine. It was out of necessity.”
It started when Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat was still the agriculture undersecretary. While on a farm tour, they got to discuss gaps in the sector, which prompted Hernandez to draft possible solutions.
There were many points of concern—middlemen making more money than the farmers, farming technology advancements and programs, and logistics, among many other things. To address these, he thought of getting prepaid volumes of vegetable orders from restaurateurs, weekend markets, small-to-medium enterprises and village associations.
His team would coordinate directly with a farmers’ cooperative in Benguet to transport the goods using Victory Liner cargo buses (Hernandez’s family owns the company), which ply the Manila-Baguio-Manila route daily. It’s an ideal business model that would benefit the farmers with a bigger share in the economic cycle.