DA must act vs increasing fertilizer prices, Zubiri says
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) must act on farmers’ complaints about constantly rising prices of fertilizer products, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Monday.
In a statement, Zubiri relayed farmers’ grievances over the high prices of fertilizer and other products in comparison to low produce prices — which leaves them with little to no income.
Even as officials cited global demand as the reason behind rising fertilizer expenses, Zubiri said DA should assist farmers, and help them to “balance rising production costs and low farmgate prices.”
“Ang dami pong lumalapit sa akin na farmers’ groups and cooperatives lately, nanghihingi ng tulong dahil sa tuloy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng fertilizers,” the Senator said.
“Ang baba na nga ng benta ng produkto nila, tapos ang mahal pa ng fertilizer. And with no support from the government, hindi na po talaga sila kikita,” he added.
Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority Executive Director Wilfredo Roldan has cited global demand as the primary reason for rising fertilizer prices.
“Urea used to go for just around Php800 to Php900 per 50 kilograms, pero ngayon nasa Php1500 to Php1800 na. That’s an astronomical jump, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Zubiri remarked.
These increases, Zubiri said, would not be good for farmers especially amid a pandemic which has affected a huge part of the economy.
To alleviate high prices, the senator suggested that the DA work towards turning the fertilizer industry a local one, so that prices would not go high due to other fees concerning importation.
“Hindi pa nga nakaka-recover ang mga magsasaka natin, lalo pa silang malulugi sa presyo ng farm input. And of course, that will affect the whole chain. It will put our farmers out of business, and it will definitely set us back in our efforts to become more self-sufficient in our production. Aasa na naman ba tayo sa imports?” Zubiri asked.
“The best way to address this is for the DA to lead the efforts in really developing our local fertilizer industry. How is it that we are an agricultural country, and yet we’re a net importer of fertilizer? We should make fertilizer production a homegrown industry, as an essential part of our agricultural sector,” he explained.
Zubiri further stated that the government was producing fertilizer locally, through the Philppine Phospate Fertilizer Corporation before it was privatized in the early 2000s.
Such model should be explored again, he noted. But for now, DA should import fertilizers for the farmers, and shoulder some of the expenses so that they can sell it at a lower price.
“For a period of time, we were actually producing more fertilizer than we were importing. We need to look into that model again, and figure out how we can adapt it today, to help our farmers have access to affordable farm input. And we’ll be opening up more jobs too, if we can jumpstart our fertilizer industry again,” Zubiri said.
“But in the short term, we do need to import fertilizers for our farmers,” Zubiri conceded. “And I hope the DA can do it on behalf of our farmers. It will be cheaper, and maybe we can ask the National Food Authority to then sell it at friendly prices to our farmers. Better yet, let’s subsidize farm input, at least for time being, to help cope with the current prices,” he added.
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