Dealing with excess greens

New age grower: Choong said farmers must be creative to find ways to protect themselves from market volatility.

PETALING JAYA: Direct access to customers will help solve the problem of farmers dumping excess produce, says a sustainable agriculture company executive.

Sunway XFarms chief operating officer Eleanor Choong said farmers find it hard to distribute their harvests when markets close during long holidays and demand slumps.

Proper planning and projections could also help distribute extra harvests to welfare aid organisations, she added.

“Dumping crops is often cheaper as there is no logistics, packing or distribution expenses,” she told The Star.

“Farmers with a temporary crop surplus should consider distributing excess food to underprivileged communities. This could be accomplished by running surplus projections weeks or months in advance.

“Given enough notice, numerous food aid organisations and NGOs are willing to pick up excess food and distribute it to B40 and refugee communities.

“Including vegetables in restricted diets is an excellent way to nourish our less fortunate,” she added.

Choong also suggested that cucumbers and tomatoes be processed into juice, which would make them last longer and fetch higher prices.

“Composting crops is another way to reduce waste. Farmers can benefit from soil enhancement and nutrition by using proper composting methods and crop types, and they can sell this organic fertiliser as a bonus,” she added.

A Cameron Highlands farmer’s group previously told The Star that about 1,000 tonnes of vegetables were thrown away over the long Aidilfitri weekend this year, consisting mostly of cucumbers, tomatoes, sawi (choy sum) and collard greens.

Cameron Highlands Vegetable Growers Association deputy president Lau Weng Soow said the price of produce such as cucumbers was still too low for them to make a profit by selling it.

“Cucumbers are 80 sen per kg for A grade and 20 sen per kg for B and C grades; wholesalers don’t want those vegetables that aren’t the perfect size or shape, so the only way is to get rid of these squashed vegetables.

“We have no choice but to throw away 10% of our total cucumber, tomato, and aubergine production, primarily because they don’t look good and don’t sell,” Lau said, adding that the current weather and pest infestations have reduced the production of leafy vegetables.

“Previously, vegetable farmers would use some vegetables as fertiliser. Only recently, when many retailers were closed due to long holidays and there was a glut, the surplus had to be discarded,” he said.

Farmers would usually set aside some land to turn extra vegetables into fertiliser but the current bumper crop was too large even for this purpose, he said.

Lau urged aid and charity groups who want these extra vegetables to come and collect the produce themselves, as farmers already face high costs.

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