DA says fertilizers for COVID-19 assistance purchased at ‘cheaper’ price
MANILA, Philippines – The fertilizers bought and distributed to farmers as part of the government’s COVID-19 assistance are already cheap according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Agriculture Secretary William Dar made the clarification on Thursday after farmers from Central Luzon who received the fertilizers claimed that the items were overpriced by at least P140 per bag.
DA’s stimulus program “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra Covid-19 (ALPAS sa COVID-19)” bought 1.811 million bags of urea fertilizers for a total price of P1.8 billion, but the farmers alleged that government could have saved around P271.6 million had they purchased cheaper fertilizers.
“We have initially procured a total of 1,811,090 bags of urea fertilizer at a price lower than the national average retail prices of P1,035.60 for April 27 to May 1; P1,037.53 for May 4 to 8; and P1,040.68 for May 11 to 15. The volume procured comprises four of the 16 lots for wet season 2020 cropping,” Dar explained in a statement.
“Such prices were a lot cheaper compared to previous purchases at the regions, ranging from P1,300 to P1,500 per 50-kilo bag of urea fertilizer,” he added.
“Hence, at less than P1,000 per 50kg, we are already saving a lot for the government.”
On Wednesday, farmers William Laureta of Tarlac and Ernesto Agustin Domingo from Nueva Ecija highlighted that the supposed overpricing came as the government was looking for additional sources of funds.
Both also noted that DA could have purchased the urea fertilizers for a lower price given that it was ordering by bulk.
But Dar claimed they have protocols in place to prevent corruption, like the conduct of transparent biddings, and in consultation with various other offices knowledgeable about fertilizers.
Dar also mentioned a downward trend in terms of fertilizer prices, which was seconded by a December 2019 report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showing that the average price of urea fertilizers in the country was then at P1,121.57 per sack.
PSA’s numbers came amid a downward trend in the price of fertilizer, but also before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended work and affected various industries.
“I can personally vouch for the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the procurement process that the DA-BAC has exercised for these fertilizers. Guided by our Legal Office and in constant consultation with the GPPB, we made sure we followed to the number the prescribed procurement procedure as required by the law,” Dar said.
“We have been very transparent on the procurement of fertilizer as we know this might be used to stir false information against the government. The DA will not wrongfully hold any information that should be known to the public. I encourage everyone to help us look even closer to ensure that every peso we allot is going to where it should be spent,” he added.
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