Senator Imee Marcos on Sunday warned of low farm production if the Department of Agriculture (DA) fails to immediately release the almost PHP9 billion in government subsidies for rice farmers to buy fertilizers and other farm inputs.
“The DA is creating bigger problems for itself if it delays the release of farmer subsidies. Farm yields for the country’s staple crops cannot be maintained, much less increased, if farmers can’t afford fertilizers and quit their livelihood,” Marcos said in a statement.
She said the PHP5,000 worth of cash aid for some 1.6 million farmers was slow in coming, considering that they are now preparing for the wet planting season this September to October.
“Huwag nang i-time deposit ang pondo para sa mga magsasaka at hindi naman yan para tumubo ng interes sa bangko. Paspasan na ang pag-release niyan, ngayon din (Don’t put farmers’ funds in time deposit since they’re not meant to earn interest. Speed up the release, right now),” Marcos said.
The Land Bank of the Philippines said the delay in the funds’ release was due to the DA’s problem with its ID system.
“If the DA lacks the capacity to update its RSBSA (Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture), then it should call on municipal agriculturists who ought to have a list of farmers’ cooperatives in their areas of responsibility,” Marcos, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Cooperatives, said.
She added that the RSBSA’s list of individual farmers given access to fertilizer and seed subsidies should not exclude but continue to support those whose livelihood has grown to process their crops into value-added products.
About PHP18.9 billion in rice tariffs was collected by the government last year, allowing the allotment of close to PHP9 billion in additional farmer subsidies besides the PHP10 billion mandated under the Rice Tariffication Law.
Marcos said that a farmer tilling one hectare of land can save 25-33 percent on fertilizer costs with the PHP5,000 subsidy.
Farmers use six to eight bags of fertilizer per hectare and spend PHP15,000 to HP20,000 at today’s prices of urea fertilizer.
The tight global supply of fertilizer has sent local farmers reeling from prices that have tripled since 2020, from about PHP800 per 50-kilogram bag of urea to PHP2,300 to PHP2,500 this year. (PNA)