DIGOS CITY, Philippines -- The high cost of fuel has forced many farmers in rice producing areas of Davao del Sur to lay aside their mechanized tillers and go back to using carabao (water buffalo) in their farms.
Dodong Ybañez of Hagonoy town, said he could no longer afford to use his mechanized tiller, which runs on diesel, because of the escalating cost of fuel.
Diesel currently costs nearly P60 per liter in the province. Farmers normally use five liters of the fuel per hectare.
For those without mechanized tillers, the cost of renting one has also increased to more than P2,000 per day.
"It has become expensive both ways," Ybañez said.
He said using carabao to till his farm would save him a lot of money during the planting season.
Ybañez acknowledged that a mechanized tiller makes the job easier but that they have to resort to other means if they want to save on expenses.
Julian Rosalia, a tractor owner and operator, confirmed that he has been losing income because only a few farmers use mechanized tillers these days because of rising fuel prices.
Boboy Macias, another farmer in Hagonoy town, said since using carabao, he has already saved a lot of money.
Macias said the amount he saved could be used for his family?s other needs.
In Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, tractor operators have to increase the amount they charge from farmers to catch up with fuel costs, according to Vice Mayor Arthur Davin.
Davin said from P2,000 per hectare per day, tractor owners now charge P3,000 to recover fuel cost and because of this, farmers have turned to the carabao again to till their lands.
"A farmer will only spend P1,500 per hectare per day if he uses carabao. That's a savings of about P1,500 compared to [using] mechanized tillers," Davin said.
Farmer Anita Alcaras said the bright side to using carabao, aside from the lower cost, is that, while the farm animal might take longer to finish the job than a mechanized tiller, the result is also much better in terms of soil consistency.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) said the government understands the need of farmers to lower their production cost and promised to give them subsidies this week.
Roger Masculino, Digos City agriculture officer, said at least 826 farmers from the city will be given fertilizer subsidy coupons. "Each farmer will receive two coupons and will get P250 in discounts from accredited fertilizer outlets," he said.