Farmers complain that increasing fertilizer costs limit their income
By Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Times, March 18, 2004

TABUK, Kalinga—Despite their gains in rice production, rice farmers in this idyllic town of 90,000 people are complaining that the high cost of fertilizer and other inputs are limiting their income.

“The price of fertilizer has gone up three times, but the farmgate price of palay [unmilled] has not changed since the 1980s,” farmer and seed grower Carlos A. Duyan said.

Duyan, who takes care of an eight-hectare farm and earns hundreds of thousands of pesos for every cropping, said the high cost of production inputs hits smaller farmers hardest.

Provincial agriculturist Felix G. Dalacan confirmed that the price of fertilizer surged to P630 for every 50-kilo bag this year from only P220 in the 1990s.

An average farmer in Cordillera, he noted, uses six bags of urea fertilizer in a hectare in a single cropping. Those who use organic fertilizer save money, but most farmers depend on chemicals to fertilize their lands, he added.

The capital town of Tabuk is a leading hybrid rice seed (F1) producer in the country and has been acknowledged by seed company SL Agritech Corp. as the best performer among all towns in terms of promoting hybrid rice varieties.

Dalacan described Kalinga farmers as meticulous and fast learners of new technology. Ironically, Kalinga is not among the 11 original provinces identified by the DA as the core areas of hybrid rice propagation.

“The farmers are now asking the government for an increase in the support price of the National Food Authority [NFA] from the present range of P9 to P10 a kilo of palay,” he said.

Rice dealers use the NFA support price as the ceiling in buying palay from the farmers. In Kalinga, a kilo of palay is reportedly traded at P7 to P8.50. Dalacan placed the cost of producing a kilo of palay at P6.50 in Kalinga, where most farmers employed mechanized technology.

“Since the cost of fertilizer has gone up three times, the farmers now want the government to double its buying price, which has not changed since the Marcos administration,” Dalacan said.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary Luis P. Lorenzo Jr. blamed the high oil prices on the world market for the increase in the cost of fertilizer.

Lorenzo said that coupled with the peso depreciation, the high oil prices which hit a high of $36 per barrel this month, pushed up the cost of urea and other fuel-based chemical fertilizers.

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