Ahead of new normal, more consumers click for rice, vegetables

Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 16 2020 06:09 AM | Updated as of Apr 16 2020 06:32 AM

Ahead of new normal, more consumers click for rice, vegetables 1
Rice varieties offered by BigasPh. Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Virtual markets that served as alternative trading platforms for Filipino farmers are now seeing a surge in orders, as those cocooned in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic do their grocery shopping online.

BigasPh and Murang Gulay Atbp said demand tripled since Luzon, home to half the Philippines' 100 million people, was placed on lockdown in mid-March. Online grocery delivery pioneer Session Groceries said its sales more than doubled.

Last year, BigasPh and Murang Gulay used their networks to help Filipino rice farmers increase their margins as they fought a surge in imports. Now, the sister platforms are part of a growing stable of online groceries under the "new normal" where physical distancing is required.

“Hindi lang kasi households yung naging kliyente namin, pati mga donors sa frontliners,” said Chriz Valdez, one of the founders of BigasPh and Murang Gulay.

(Our clients are not just households, but also donors to the frontliners.)

BigasPh now has 10 riders working everyday from just 3 while Murang Gulay now has 5 riders from 2 before the quarantine. Demand was growing before the lockdown, Valdez said.

PRODUCE ON WHEELS

Baguio-based Session Groceries, which also delivers to Metro Manila and nearby provinces said that as of April 11, it closed 12,000 sales transactions, compared to around 4,800 from January to end of March last year.

Session Groceries CEO Iloisa Romaraog also said that prior to the quarantine, they had 12 employees, 2 of whom were in customer support, and 30 motorcycle riders.

The headcount was raised to 40, 8 of which are in customer support. They also hired 5 delivery van drivers and doubled the number of their motorcycle riders to 60, she said.

Ahead of new normal, more consumers click for rice, vegetables 2
Employees of Session Groceries pack vegetables and fruits into boxes at the Wangal Sports Complex in La Trinidad, Benguet. The online grocer said demand for its service had more than doubled after the enhanced community quarantine was imposed over Luzon. Handout photo

Murang Gulay riders now also do grocery errands for canned goods and other products as clients appealed to them to include these in their deliveries.

BigasPh and Murang Gulay operate in Cavite and Metro Manila. It recently expanded to Rizal province, with deliveries as far as Antipolo and Taytay.

The quarantine has also pushed Murang Gulay to add extra products and services. Besides vegetables and fruits, it now also delivers dried fish and fresh seafood, disinfectant alcohol and sanitizers.

Some clients also asked riders to accommodate errands like buying canned goods and personal items.

BigasPh is accessible via an app, website and Facebook page; while Murang Gulay only has a Facebook page for now. Valdez said Murang Gulay was supposed to launch on anapp but the developer was unable to finish it because of the lockdown.

Session Groceries accepts orders via its app, Facebook page and website.

INITIAL HURDLES
 
Both Romaraog and Valdez say they had problems procuring and delivering produce during the first days of the Luzon lockdown as LGUs implemented checkpoints and refused to allow trucks to pass.

Deliveries became easier after the national government came out with clearer guidelines.

Valdez said the surge in demand for rice and fresh produce delivery caught her by surprise, but she expects demand to remain high even after the lockdown.

Romaraog said the lockdown put the spotlight on the importance of farmers, who are dealing with losses due to falling prices weeks before the quarantine.

"So far okay naman ang response ng tao sa app natin. We're thankful hindi dahil may COVID, kundi dahil nakikita natin ang value ng farmers," Romaraog said.

(So far, people's response to the app has been okay. We're thankful, not because of COVID-19, but because we are seeing the value of farmers.)