It’s harvest time for Cebu’s cut flowers

By: Apple Ta-as October 29,2016 - 01:46 PM
CUT FLOWERS IN BLOOM. Flower farmers in Cebu City’s mountain barangay of Sirao create a beautiful geometrical form as they planted in slopes to prevent soil erosion. In the next few days, these flowers will be harvested and sold not just in Cebu but in other parts of the country with the high demand for cut flowers in time for All Souls’ Day  and Saints’ Day celebration next week. Story on page 9.  (CDN DRONE PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

CUT FLOWERS IN BLOOM. Flower farmers in Cebu City’s mountain barangay of Sirao create a beautiful geometrical form as they planted in slopes to prevent soil erosion. In the next few days, these flowers will be harvested and sold not just in Cebu but in other parts of the country with the high demand for cut flowers in time for All Souls’ Day and Saints’ Day celebration next week.
(CDN DRONE PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

It’s going to be busy days ahead for the flower growers in the mountain barangays of Cebu City, with only days away from the commemoration of All Saints’ Day and Souls’ Day on the first two days of November.

With flowers intended to decorate graves and tombs in cemeteries across Cebu now in full bloom, small makeshift tents made of bamboo are already built along the roadside of the adjoining villages of Malubog, Babag and Sirao.

As expected, cut flower buyers will travel up north to get the fresh bundles of blooms before the supply runs out, or they might end up with damaged ones.

The delicate yellow chrysanthemums sell for P100 per bundle on stalls, but on the farms they are sold for less than P20 to direct buyers. The growing line of bamboo tents already displayed red roses that sell for P100 per dozen and some other varieties like the “jaguar” flowers that are priced at P100 per bundle.

“Sugod nami og display diri kay daghan naman mangita (We have started displaying our flowers since customers are starting to look for them),” said Mary Jane Paran, who shares a stall with relatives.

Paran, assisted by her daughters Karen and Christine, cultivates a small parcel of land she has turned into flower beds located at the interior downhill portion of Barangay Malubog. Paran is just one of the few early birds who built their tents at the roadside in Barangay Malubog. She expects that as All Souls’ Day comes near, the blooms might be sold at a higher price.

However, most local flower growers have opted to skip the long tiring trade of displaying their blooms at the roadside and instead sell their flowers directly to out-of-town-buyers who came from Bohol, Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, Iloilo City, Leyte and even as far as Metro Manila.

Flower farmer Jonie Bonganoy, 30, was one of those farmers who have already sold his blooms to out-of-town buyers even before these were harvested.

Yesterday, Cebu Daily News found him in a half-a-hectare farm following a walk on an off-road downhill path in Barangay Sirao. His patches of white and yellow blooms can be seen from the main transcentral highway going to Balamban town in western Cebu.

Bonganoy had just finished harvesting the flower variety called “puto-puto” (Malaysian mums) when CDN arrived at around noon.

He was starting to bundle the blooms for pick-up. “They (buyers) come here in big vans and trucks to collect their purchase. Our regular buyer is from Iloilo and some are from Manila,” he told CDN in Cebuano yesterday. (To be concluded)

Bonganoy got help in packing the flowers from his friend Toto Bayawa, 32, who is also the owner of the lot that Bonganoy used for his flower farm; and his neighbors Elizabeth Noel, 37 and Beverlita Mencede, 35.

They work inside a makeshift tent that has three bamboo beds where they havelaid out the harvested flowers for packing.His wife Elizabeth (same name with the woman neighbor) later joined them in bundling flowers. She also brought lunch for everyone to partake.

“Ganiha raman gud ming alas sais sa buntag nagsugod og panguha nag bulak. Ingon aron man ang sabot nga ilang kuhaon. Hantod na ni 29 (We started harvesting the flowers at 6 am. The buyers are scheduled to pick up the flowers today. This will continue until Oct. 29 ),” he said.

Bonganoy has a total of around 40 flower beds both in his friend Bayawa’s farm as well as on an upland area in the same barangay.The harvest went ahead even if the paths in and out of the farm were muddy and slippery due to a heavy downpour from dawn until early morning yesterday.

Bonganoy said he they had no choice but to go around barefoot since they could no longer delay the harvest with a buyer already expected to arrive anytime yesterday.

“Nagtiniil na lang gani mi kay danlog kaayo. Kung mag sapatos or botas pod ka, mutubo man imong sapatos unya mubug-at kay ang mga lapok mamilit. May pag magtiniil nalang kay mas hayahay (We had to go barefoot because it was too slippery. We could also use boots because the mud would stick on them and it would only make walking more difficult. Its more comfortable to go barefoot),” he narrated with a hearty and infectious laugh.

But he turned serious as he talked about the delicate process of harvesting when done during a downpour since the flowers could easily get bruised. Its faster and easier to harvest flowers during the summer but growing flower is actually harder during this period since water is scarce during the summer month, he added.

The price of flowers likewise fluctuates, depending on the quoted price of bulk buyers.For this year, Bonganoy said his flowers are being sold at P80 per bundle, cheaper than last year’s price of P100.

“Nag depende ra man pod mi sa among buyer gud. Mao man ilang ganahan. Di sad mi ganahan makiglalis kay mawad-an mig mamalitay. Maayo unta kong malat-an ni namo ang buwak aron masud-an di man (We have to depend on the buyers. That is the price that they offered. We also don’t want to argue about the price since we might lose our bulk buyers.

Its not as if we can cook our flowers and eat them),” he said.

Bonganoy said they could harvest up to around 3,000 bundles of “puto-puto” during the All Souls Day season, which would allow him to a gross earning of around P200,000.

But his net income, he said, would just be a fraction of his gross earnings.

Half the gross earning will go to Bayawa, as the landowner’s 50 percent share. He also has to pay P300 a day for the other flower pickers. He also has to set aside a
portion of the earnings for the fertilizer that will be needed in the next planting season.

For this month’s harvest, Bonganoy said he started planting the flowers around June, exactly four months before the “puto-puto” reaches its full bloom in time for the “Kalag Kalag,” or All Souls Day, which falls on November 2 but usually celebrated on November 1, which is All Saints Day.

On these days, families troop to cemeteries to offer flowers and light candles for the eternal repose of the souls of their departed loved ones.

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TAGS: Babag, Cebu City, flowers, Malubog, Sirao

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