The United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed) has joined the call to urge the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture to immediately issue a price freeze order amid the skyrocketing cost of fertilizer that has almost tripled in less than two years.
Unifed president Manuel Lamata said they have been appealing to the DTI and DA since last year to “implement a price cap on fertilizer, or subsidize the cost, but it seems our calls have been falling on deaf ears.”
“When we first asked for help, the cost of urea fertilizer was already at P1,900 per 50-kilogram bag from the P800 to P900 price range just a year ago. Now, it is being sold at P2,300 to P2,400. With the onset of the planting season, there will be many farmers who may not be able to afford fertilizer and this will affect production in the next crop year,” Lamata said in a press statement issued by Unifed.
“Remember, the sugar industry is composed of 85 percent small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries and our worry is that, with the high price of fertilizer plus the high cost of fuel and other agricultural inputs, these small farmers may not be able to survive to see another crop year,” he added.
He said he finds it ironic that there are complaints about the high price of sugar “when it cannot even compensate for the high cost of all inputs we need to continue cultivating our sugar fields.”
“The DA and DTI have to move and address this before it gets out of hand,” Lamata said, adding that even their call for fertilizer subsidy, at the very least, has not been answered since last year.
On top of that is the continual hike in the prices of oil which is a basic commodity in all aspects of sugar planting, from land preparation to milling.
“Diesel prices were less than P30 per liter two years ago and now it has breached the P50 per liter mark. “How else can our small farmers survive when the price of fertilizer, fuel and other inputs is equal to, or even more than the price of their produce,” he added.
“This is unacceptable and something has to be done. Worse is the inaction coming from the Sugar Regulatory Administration which should have addressed this before it reached this situation,” Lamata said.
“Our government has always been reactive when it comes to industry problems. It is high time that we put competent people in government agencies that foresee these problems and can provide immediate solutions,” he added. –GB