The government and the CNMI Farmers Cooperative Association has come to an agreement with regards to the latter’s operation at the Garapan Public Market building.
According to co-op pro tem president Crispin Deleon Guerrero, the agreement will be signed today.
This comes after a discussion with acting governor Ralph DLG Torres, representatives of the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, and the co-op board and their legal counsels yesterday.
“We pretty much accomplished everything from agreeing on the contracts, agreeing on the differences and having both counsels come to an agreement, as well as support and the government and DLNR to address the issues that have prevented the contract from being signed,” Torres said.
“I’m in support of all our farmers and fishermen and ranchers and this is one hope that for all of them to come together,” he added.
Among the changes in the previous draft agreement was decreasing the co-op’s liability insurance from $1 million to $200,000. The $1-million value was seen as a major hurdle with regards to signing the agreement.
“I’m glad that their attorney basically reminded the co-op people that it is for their own good, the reason why the insurance is in there,” DLNR Secretary Richard Seman said.
Aside from farmers and fishermen, the agreement will also include ranchers to formally accommodate the sale of meat at the market.
“The whole idea for the co-op is to bring all our resources together, so it will be produce, fish and meat market together,” Torres said.
“They have to handle the fish and the meat in the same way they handle the produce,” Seman said.
There was also an agreement to allow the sale of produce that are not available locally, to encourage more customers to come to the market instead disappointing them due to lack of produce. This was among the recommendations provided by former co-op president and manager Maria Frica Pangelinan, who no longer attended the discussion.
Other food items such as processed food, pickles, and cookies that are made locally can also be sold.
Other changes with regards to operations were also discussed and agreed upon.
Seman noted that the discussion was “a very peaceful, amenable, happy gathering of people who share the same common interest to have a co-op and t discuss some of the area that they have concerns with.”
He added that the agreement was reasonable because they were able to discuss it and were able to give a rationale, which was something that didn’t happen before because they didn’t have the opportunity to sit down and talk.
“In any arrangement, when it’s the first time, you tend to put what you think is right but that’s coming only on one side until you hear the other side and the opportunity to review and you can understand that there’s room to be more reasonable,” Seman said.
With the agreement to be signed, the co-op will be operating once again as soon as they have the inventory to sell.
“I want that market moving,” Guerrero said.
Meanwhile, the co-op is also inviting their fellow farmers to support them.
“We want to invite our farmers to support the market,” co-op secretary Sid Cabrera said. “Most of the farmers with the Sabalu Market are now supporting the co-op.”