Salceda has high hopes with PBBM’s fertilizer deal with Indonesia

Published September 6, 2022, 5:04 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda is hopeful that President Ferdinand “Bonbong” Marcos Jr. will bring some good news from his state visit to Indonesia as he aimed for a government-to-government deal on procuring urea and other fertilizers that would help the country’s farmers.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) (Photo courtesy of the Office of the Press Secretary)

Also the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, the economist-congressman said that the most important part of Marcos’s trip to Indonesia was to seal the deal for the direct procurement of urea, which would help lower food costs and increase farm output.

“The most crucial development among the discussions in the President’s state visit is the direct procurement of urea and other fertilizers from Indonesia. I have long suggested that the provision of fertilizers during this planting season is the best way to ensure our food supply issues do not spill over to 2023,” Salceda said in a statement Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest producer of urea fertilizer, right after India and Russia. Urea is a low-cost nitrogen fertilizer used when only nitrogen is needed in a soil fertility program.

The lawmaker explained that growing rice in the Philippines requires at least 40 kilos of urea per hectare per cropping season, or a total of 120,000 metric tons (MTs) of urea per season.

Other crops, such as sugarcane, need urea, too.

“It’s a major expense for farmers. A strategic partnership with Indonesia to cut out the middlemen will surely reduce prices, towards PBBM’s direction of cheap domestic food production,” Salceda said.

“I think that is the most crucial concrete discussion point there. Congress is ready to empower the President in government-to-government procurement for fertilizers, should he need any special powers on that regard,” he added.

READ: Marcos says Indonesia will supply PH with fertilizers

Fertilizer deals and farm-to-market plans are at the core of the President’s agriculture agenda as concurrent secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Salceda noted that “fertilizer costs account for as much as 10.5 percent of total palay costs”.

“So, if we can lower fertilizer prices through direct and G2G negotiations, that will help farmers and increase yield, because they can afford to apply adequate amounts rather than scrimp over it,” he said.

The strategic partnership of Indonesia and the Philippines in agriculture will not only benefit the latter, the lawmaker stressed, since both countries are the biggest producers of corn and coconuts in the Southeast Asian region.

Rather than be adversaries in trying to market these top products, Salceda suggested that the two nations could become “a corn and coconut bloc in the world market”.

“We need to come to an understanding of working together in world trade, rather than competing with each other in a race to the bottom. The world has much more demand for corn and coconuts that both countries can fill, so we can be partners rather than adversaries there,” he said.

Salceda proposed that both countries work on technologies to make coconut farming more climate resilient, “especially as both countries are also very prone to extreme climate events.”

“Indonesia has been a very constructive partner. We are very good friends and allies, with very similar strengths and problems. PBBM was correct to make Indonesia his first state visit. It’s like visiting a brother’s home,” he furthered.