Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Monday, Oct. 18 called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to take action amid the skyrocketing fertilizer prices in the country which has prejudiced farmers who struggle to balance rising production costs and low farm gate 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 (Many farmers’ groups and cooperatives have been approaching me, asking for help due to increases in the price of fertilizers),” Zubiri said.
“Ang baba na nga ng benta ng produkto nila, tapos ang mahal pa ng fertilizer (They are hit by low prices of their produce but the price of fertilizer is high). And with no support from the government, hindi na po talaga sila kikita (they are not making profits),’’ he pointed out.
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 (now it is) P1,500 to P1,800 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 (They have not yet recovered yet they are losing due to high prices of 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? (Shall be depend on imports?),’’ he pointed out.
“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,’’ he stressed.
“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,’’ he added.