Farmers claim fertilizers given as part of COVID-19 aid are overpriced
MANILA, Philippines – Some farmers in Central Luzon who received fertilizers from the Department of Agriculture (DA) as part of the government’s COVID-19 assistance claimed that items provided were overpriced.
Farmers William Laureta of Tarlac and Ernesto Agustin Domingo of Nueva Ecija said on Wednesday that DA stimulus program — Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra Covid-19 (ALPAS sa Covid-19) — bought 1.811 million bags of urea fertilizer, for a total price of P1.8 billion, or around least P1,000 per bag.
However, both said that the average retail price of urea fertilizer was only P850 per bag. So there was an overpriced of around P271.6 million.
“Farmers could barely survive this crisis, and even the government is virtually scraping the bottom of the barrel now just to look for funds to help the most vulnerable sectors, including farmers, and to keep the economy afloat,” Laureta said in Filipino.
“These Agriculture officials should be taken to task for knowingly entering into an anomalous and overpriced contract. They have betrayed us farmers who need all the help we can get and have defrauded the government of millions of pesos of crucial funds,” Domingo added.
Laureta claimed that in Tarlac, a bag of urea fertilizer is sold for P850, while the same bag can be bought at P860 in Nueva Ecija, Domingo said.
Both agreed though that the savings that DA could have garnered could have been used to fuel the government’s COVID-19 response — given that President Rodrigo Duterte himself said that the country was running out of funds.
INQUIRER.net has tried to obtain the side of DA and Agriculture Secretary William Dar through text messages and chats on their Facebook accounts, but both have yet to reply as of posting time.
Meanwhile, a December 2019 report from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the average price of urea fertilizers in the country was then at P1,121.57 per sack. It is worth noting though that PSA was seeing a downward trend in the price of fertilizers before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Philippine shores.
Still, Domingo insisted that DA had the leverage to appeal for lower prices of fertilizers because it was engaging in a wholesale purchase of the fertilizers. He also mentioned that fertilizers distributed to other regions wee also overpriced, at P990 in Calabarzon (Region 4-A) and Central Visayas (Region 7), and P995 for Western Visayas and Central Luzon (Regions 6 and 3).
The farmers urged Duterte to act on the issue, as the President had promised in one of his speeches that he would order the arrest of government officials who would use the COVID-19 problem to their advantage.
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