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Concerns over skyrocketing fertilizer prices aired

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Sugar producers yesterday expressed concern over the sharp increase in the price of fertilizer, particularly urea, which they said may result to low farmers’ productivity and affect government’s food security program.

The National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) called on the Department of Agriculture to request the Department of Trade and Industry to impose a price cap on fertilizer prices.

“Fertilizer prices have been rising fast, which would lead to high cost of production, and in turn will result to high prices for our consumers,” said NFSP President Enrique D. Rojas in his letter sent to Agriculture Secretary William Dar.

Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica was also furnished a copy of the said letter.

Rojas strongly recommended Sec. Dar to convince DTI to impose a “suggested retail price” for all kinds of fertilizer.

“The bulk of the proceeds from our sugar sales is eaten up by the high cost of inputs, particularly fertilizer and fuel. We appeal to the government to institute measures to curb the unconscionable increases in fertilizer and fuel prices,” Rojas added.

He pointed out that agriculture, particularly the sugar industry, has kept the Negros economy afloat at the height of the pandemic.

“The sugar industry, in particular, and agriculture in general, has proven to be an effective partner of government in sustaining our economy amid this pandemic. Government should help us tame the high prices of fertilizer and fuel, so that we can fully perform our role as catalyst for the economic recovery of our country,” Rojas stressed.

He further emphasized that government intervention in controlling the increases in fertilizer and fuel prices will be highly appreciated by the hundreds of thousands of small sugarcane farmers and the five million Filipinos who depend on the sugar industry for their livelihood.

FERTILIZER PRICES SKYROCKETING

It can be recalled that the price of Urea, the most widely-used fertilizer in farming, ranged from P800 to P900 per 50-kilo bag in 2020.

The cost of Urea doubled to about P1,600 per bag last July and now, it has skyrocketed to more than P2,000 per bag.

Potash prices increased from P900 per bag last April to more than P1,600 per bag lately, while the price of 18-46-0 also jumped from P1,100 per bag last April to a whooping P2,200 per bag presently.

All kinds of fertilizers have also doubled in prices, compared to last year’s price levels.

CONFED PLEA

Raymond Montinola, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, Inc., disclosed that while CONFED thanked Agriculture Secretary William Dar for a swift action to their woes, they still noted the continued rise in the price of urea, which is currently pegged at P2,005 per 50-kilo bag.

Montinola, in his letter dated October 25, told Dar that the federation is appreciative of the assistance extended by the DA, especially in facilitating a meeting with the Sugar Regulatory Administration, Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the Planters Products, Inc. as early as July, in a bid for a quick action plan and link them with a major fertilizer importer-trader that could give a reasonable price.

He lamented that while the price of urea and related farming costs continue to skyrocket to unprecedented levels, but the sugar prices remain the same.

“The fuel cost last year was only P30 per liter, now it’s P50 per liter, with labor cost is also expensive nowadays,” the CONFED executive added.

It is worth looking into at the disaster to our agricultural productivity should our farmers lose the ability to apply proper fertilization. Production of primary crops will drop resulting in our inability to provide food security for our nation, he said.

Montinola also said that the agricultural sector cannot rely on importation as prices will always be an issue and all the more the availability of supply.

He also noted that some urea-producing countries are now withholding their stocks for use of their own farmers. “Therefore, the concern in importation lies not only on pricing but in supply as well,” Montinola added.

Should fertilizers such as urea continue to sell at more than P1,300 per bag, Montinola continued, the farmers cannot help but call on government to urge the DA, the SRA, FPA and the Department of Trade and Industry to explore concrete measures to secure adequate supply of various fertilizer grades and ensure that farmers can avail of them at fair prices, he said.

Such measures may include government-to-government negotiations, financing, subsidies and enforcement of the Price Act of 1992 or Republic Act No. 7551 as there might be cases of profiteering or other unscrupulous practices by fertilizer distributors, Montinola added.

On the federation’s end, he said, CONFED is studying the viability of direct importation of fertilizers through its registered cooperatives, as it has done previously, in the hope of acquiring affordable fertilizers.

Low-cost financing, or availment of funds from the Sugar Industry Development Act appropriation, may be one way of facilitating the same, with assistance from concerned government agencies, the CONFED president said.*

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