Farmers reel from higher production costs
Jaime “Ka Jimmy” Tadeo, a rice farmer from Plaridel, Bulacan province, watches his household’s budget with eagle eyes.
As food prices rise, he and his wife find it increasingly difficult to put food on the table.
“The prices of goods keep rising. The cheapest fertilizer we use cost P890 per bag before. Now, it’s P910 and it will surely go up,” Tadeo said.
The cost of tilling his farm using a hand tractor has also gone up to P6,400 per hectare from P5,800.
‘Never-ending’ cost rises
The same goes for 67-year-old Oftociano Manalo, a rice farmer from Balungao, Pangasinan province. Planting rice on his 9-hectare farm becomes more difficult each season because of the “never-ending” rise in the cost of inputs and labor.
“Labor for planting per hectare by contract is now P5,000, excluding snacks. Last year, it was only P4,500, including snacks,” said Manalo, former president of the Pangasinan Federation of Irrigators’ Associations.
Manalo pays his workers for every step of production, from preparation of rice seed beds to harvesting paddy.
“How about the fertilizer, insecticides and fuel expenses for our water pumps when we irrigate our farms?” he said.
Last year, Manalo said he spent P45,000 per hectare. This year, he estimated the cost per hectare could reach P55,000 based on current prices of labor and goods.
He said most farmers borrow capital from rice traders, whom they paid with their harvest.
Poor farmers, he said, prefer not to borrow from government banks because of hefty requirements.
Tadeo and Manalo are among millions of farmers overburdened by rising inflation, which hit 5.2 percent in June, the highest in more than five years.
While rice farmers often keep a portion of their harvest for their own consumption, they eventually end up buying their own produce in the market at a higher price.
Currently, the average retail price of regular-milled rice is P40.57 a kilogram and well-milled rice, P44.21, up 7.67 percent and 5.77 percent, respectively, from last year.
The buying price for paddy rice breached the P20 per kg mark in March, the first time in nearly three years, but industry groups said this was not enough to offset the rising costs of basic goods.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the food index alone rose 5.8 percent in June as the prices of commodities like rice, corn and other cereals rose.
“Everyone has been impacted. Producers are also consumers,” Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura chair Rosendo So said. “The government must implement mitigating programs.” — WITH A REPORT FROM GABRIEL CARDINOZA
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