Thursday, November 26, 2015

Not Your Usual Vegetables at the Negros Showroom Market

On Tuesdays and Fridays, a farmers' market occupies the parking space at the Negros Showroom on Lacson Street. Early morning joggers, and the meticulous, health-conscious set make a stop here, and office people find this a convenient, welcome addition to an urban commercial strip.

The farmers themselves bring and sell their fruits and vegetables in this space. From farms in San Carlos City and Barangay Patag, Silay, these crops are transported in protective crates, not sacks, as a rule. Another rule is that only potable water should be used in the final wash of the produce. These rules are just part of the major reason why these fruits and vegetables are not the usual. The fruits and vegetables available at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are GAP-certified.

GAP stands for “Good Agricultural Practices,” the certification of which is issued by the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS).

The Philippine GAP certification, adopted from the ASEAN and the global GAP, is an export requirement. Therefore, the produce at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are export quality.

A hallmark of a farm that is GAP-certified is its traceability. In the Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, “traceability is the ability to follow the movement of produce through specified stages of production and distribution.”

Traceability means that one is able to identify the source of a crop, the conditions--whether of soil, water, weather, or farmer--with which it was planted, grown and picked, and even the farm inputs administered on it. Farm lots are properly coded, mapped, and fenced, water is analyzed for cleanliness, and fertilizers and pesticides are kept at the safest levels. All these agricultural activities and information are duly recorded and maintained for two years.

Good Agricultural Practices strictly uphold food safety, environmental protection, and worker's health, but if issues on these arise, traceability ensures that things can be tracked, addressed and corrected.

From planting, to harvesting, to selling, traceability gives vegetables a history that confidently deals with questions like, how far back into the chain can you claim that a product is “safe”, “fresh”, “clean”, “chemical-free”, and “fair trade”?

Indeed, these fruits and vegetables sold at competitive prices at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are not the usual; not the usual because these are unlike most of the crops in the local market that fall below food safety standards.

In the Philippines, only 39 farms are GAP-certified. Three (3) of these are farmers' organizations are in Negros. The members of these are mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries. They were all trained in GAP, qualified, and are continuously updated and linked to market.

A program called OURFood, or “Optimizing and Upscaling Roles in the Food Supply Chain” of the AFOS Foundation from Germany guides them in GAP. Its local partner is the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) which runs the Negros Showroom.

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Author & Editor - The Philippines' First and Only Web Magazine on Organic Farming.

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