“We should make fertilizer production a homegrown industry, as an essential part of our agricultural sector”- Sen. Migz Zubiri

IMG source: Scidev.net

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is calling on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to take action amidst the skyrocketing fertilizer prices in the country.

Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority Executive Director Wilfredo Roldan has cited global demand as the primary reason for rising fertilizer prices. This in turn cause farmers to struggle to balance rising production costs and low farmgate prices due to the increase in fertilizer 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. 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.”

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri

“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.

“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?”

The Senate Majority Leader suggested that 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 said.

“I remember when the government actually used to produce fertilizer locally, through PhilPhos (Philppine Phospate Fertilizer Corporation), before it was privatized in 2000. 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.”

“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.”

“We do thank the DA for its move to provide discount vouchers for fertilizers to our farmers,” he said. The DA, in Memorandum No. 14 released in August, laid down the guidelines for the provision of fertilizer discount vouchers at an equivalent of Php2,000 per hectare for inbred varieties and Php3,000 per hectare for hybrid varieties.

“In the long run, though, we really need to strengthen our own fertilizer production. Because as long as we are reliant on imported fertilizers, we are leaving our farmers at the mercy of world market fluctuations.”

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