Programs and Activities

Rising price of farm inputs beyond reach of farmers

By Ernie B.Esconde
Manila Times, July 14, 2004

Without adequate irrigation, all rice production programs will be put to waste. In answer to lack of irrigation dams, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos distributed surplus waterpumps with engines bought through the war reparation payments of the Japanese government. Some government bureaucrat may insist that "no, only a few hectares are left unirri­gated." But this just shows that they do not really know what they are talking about and that they have no grasp of the real need of farmers.
The irrigation of ricefield is supposed to be the responsibility of the government, so that the country can be assured that there will be enough rice. But it should not be enough to increase rice production while rice producers themselves are taken for granted.

The government should see to it that farmers increase their production and that the costs of production are lessened. Farming is a business and its income statement must not always reflect a “loss.”

Farming has to be an income-generating endeavor for it has been the only means of livelihood for many years by millions of Filipinos. But how can it be a profitable trade when one of the most simple and basic needs, irrigation, is still not properly addressed to?

In the town of Samal, Bataan, for example, many farmers are tied up to expensive diesel-fed waterpumps to irrigate their ricefield. Thus, a sizable part of their harvest goes to irrigation expenses.

The government has been talking of agriculture modernization, but where is it? They cannot even develop impounding areas for rainwater. That is why rivers and creeks are already dry after three sunny days although it rained everyday for a week before that. Water given free by nature just goes rushing to the sea. Do we still have no technology to impound rain water?

Without adequate irrigation, all rice production programs will be put to waste. In answer to lack of irrigation dams, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos distributed surplus waterpumps with engines bought through the war reparation payments of the Japanese government.

These big and heavy surplus engines were used by many farmers for many years. These were later replaced by small and lighter engines to operate waterpumps that now dot many ricefield, some only 100 meters away from each other.

With the ever-rising prices of diesel and oil and engine parts, the cost for maintenance of these pumps drain a big portion of the harvest of farmers that should have served as income for rice growers.

In the presence of some dams, rivers are silted and there are not enough canals constructed for water from the dams to go straight to the fields. A multimillion peso dam, for example, that should have served a bigger area is limited to only a few hectares due to silted rivers and creeks and the absence of canals and dikes.

Millions of pesos are spent for the construction of a dam but a few hundred thousand pesos more seems to be very hard to get to fund the construction of canals and clear the rivers. For an answer, your guess is good as mine, perhaps.

The price of commercial fertilizers goes up and up every planting season. Who will put a halt to this remains a big question to farmers. Can incoming Agriculture Sec. Arthur Yap do something about it?

The much-used nitrogen fertilizer, urea, is presently retailed at P670 a bag. It was priced at P630 a planting season ago and about P580 two planting seasons ago. The price of complete fertilizer, known as 14-14-14, suddenly skyrocketed.

While before it was always chea­per than urea, a bag of 14-14-14 is now sold at P680 from its price of P580 last March. Dealers said it may even rise to P700 or more. What a pitiful condition for small and poor rice farmers! The price of farm inputs are already beyond their reach.

The price of palay, on the other hand, has not changed over the past three years in the local market while the National Food Authority has pegged its support price for a number of years.

It is gratifying to know that the country's rice production is increasing, as claimed by agriculture officials. Do farmers have to jump joyfully on this announcement?

But will agriculture bosses please concentrate not only on the rice yield but also on the income of farmers. If their take home pay, so to speak, is growing, then and only then can we consider the government's program on rice production a resounding success.

Increased local production and rice importation are two of the tools of government uses to provide rice on every table. But has government considered the plight of ordinary farmers on the side of profitability? Does government even bother to find out how much a farmer has to spend to produce a cavan of palay?

At the rate the cost of production is growing by leaps and bounds, is rice-farming profitable to the heavily-indebted Filipino farmer? Government should act, and it is long overdue, for farmers so that they may finally savor the bounty of agriculture that administration after administrations have promised to the.

It is a pity that some detractors are at work again “to demonize” the administration of Gov. Enrique “Tet” Garcia who just assumed his office on July 1. They would like to make us believe that a recall move, like that initiated against Tet in 1993, could be replicated today.

Garcia is only 12 days old in the governorship and insinuations like this based on flimsy reasons is very unproductive. It is causing division in a province known for its peace-loving citizens.

Let us all buckle down to work and let Tet do his work for you and I. Bataeños will be the ones to benefited from whatever good results in the programs the governor wants to pursue. Let us not be tools for the destruction of this province we all love. We must strive for unity so that more progress will not be far for all of us.

Wait for 2007 and you can attack Garcia with all your might but please stop this recall insinuations that will be divide us the more at the expense of our province and people. Be fiscalizers, yes, but please do not promote hatred and disenchantment.

Many business leaders in Bataan would like the appointment of Chairman Felicito “Tong” Payumo of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority that ends on October 1 be extended. They are of the strong belief that the former Bataan congressman can do more if given the chance to continue his various programs.

They said this is for the good of the region and the country for Payumo already has the grasp of all the programs at hand. The businessmen would like the road projects connecting Bataan and the Subic Freeport to the multimillion-peso toll-road project in Clark (Angeles City) and Tarlac to materialize under the term of Payumo.

We are calling on President Arroyo not to replace a good man who can do more for the SBMA, the Luzon regions and the country, in general.