Senate to probe DA’s procurement of alleged overpriced fertilizer

Marje Pelayo   •   June 16, 2020   •   529

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has released a P5-B budget for the procurement of fertilizer to be distributed to local farmers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. 

“Minabuti po natin na mayroong fertilizer this time around kasi may pandemya tayo [We believe it’s best to have fertilizers at this time of pandemic],” noted DA Secretary William Dar.

“Gusto nating pataasin ang food sufficiency level sa bansa [We want to improve the country’s food sufficiency level] from now 86% to 93% to 94%,” he added.

But an agricultural group ‘Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura’ (SINAG) claimed that DA’s bidding price of P1,000 per bag is higher by P150 as compared to about P800 per bag that farmers regularly buy in local markets. 

“Kung ang floor price mo ilalagay mo sa mataas, anong tendency ng mga dealer? Magbi-bid ng mataas kasi yun ang floor price mataas [If you set a high floor price, dealers will bid higher as well],” argued SINAG President Rosendo So.

But the Agriculture Department argued that the budget of P1,000 per bag of fertilizers is actually lower than the surveyed price of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (P1,043 to P1,062/bag between March to May 2020) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (P1,140/bag in December 2019).

DA acknowledged that the price of fertilizer indeed dropped but it was already the bidding period and it also included other expenses like transportation. 

“We are not bound na baguhin kasi the DA BAC is merely relying on what is included in the terms of reference given by the end-users,” explained DA Undersecretary Waldo Carpio. 

But SINAG argued that the actual price that farmers have been buying is better than those in surveys.

“Itong mga nakukuha nating presyo is resibo na ng mga farmers. Ano ang mas titingnan ng tao? Iyong survey o iyong actual na presyo [What we have are actual receipts from farmers. What do you think the public will believe? The surveys or the actual price]?” argued So.

The matter has reached the office of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food Chair Senator Cynthia Villar who vowed to launch a probe on this once the Senate session resumes in July. 

“Kasi ito kung ang bibilhin nila ay P5 billion peso-worth na ipamimigay sa farmers, that would be P5-million. So kung may overprice na P140 per bag, that’s P700M. Malaki din diba? [If they bought P5-billion-peso-worth of (fertilizers) to be distributed to farmers, that would be P5-million. If there’s an overpricing of P140 pesos per bag, that’s P700-M. That’s a huge amount],” noted Villar.

“Kaya titingnan natin kung tama iyong retail at ano ba ang wholesale (price) [We will check if the retail price is correct and what the wholesale price is] then we investigate],” concluded Villar. -MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Mababang presyo ng palay dahil sa rice tariffication law, itinanggi ng DA

Robie de Guzman   •   October 5, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Mariing pinabulaanan ng Department of Agriculture ang alegasyon ng ilang grupo ng mga magsasaka hinggil sa umano’y pagbaba ng presyo ng palay dahil sa ipinatutupad na Rice Tariffication Law.

Una nang nanawagan ang grupong Federation of Free Farmers sa Kongreso na imbestigahan ang pagpapatupad ng Rice Tariffication Law dahil sa naging epekto nito sa presyuhan ng palay.

Ayon sa grupo, bumaba sa P11 hanggang P13  kada kilo ang presyo ng basang palay habang nasa P14 hanggang P17 naman ang halaga ng tuyong palay.

Anila, ito ay dahil umano sa hindi kontroladong importasyon ng bigas at walang kasiguruhan sa polisiya ng kagawaran.

Ngunit ayon kay Agriculture Secretary William Dar, walang katotohanan at  ‘exaggerated’ lang ang alegasyon ng ilang grupo at ilang dating opisyal ng kagawaran.

Aniya, paraan lang ito upang maisulong ang kanilang panukalang amiyendahan ang mga probisyon ng rice tariffication law.

“The interest groups, along with former DA officials, have exaggerated data on palay to push for the amendment or repeal of the RTL (rice tariffication law). They are resurrecting old arguments against RTL,” ang wika ni Dar.

Batay aniya sa survey ng Philippine Rice Information System (PRISM) na isinagawa mula Setyembre 16-30, 2020, nasa P18 kada kilo ang average na presyo ng palay sa Central Luzon habang P19 naman sa Cagayan Valley.

Ang dalawang rehiyon ang nangunguna sa produksyon ng palay sa bansa na katumbas ng 31.5 percent ng total harvest noong 2019.

Sa ulat naman ng Philippine Statistics Authoroty, lumalabas na nasa P17.12 kada kilo naman ang farmgate price ng palay sa huling dalawang linggo ng Setyembre – mas mataas kumpara sa P16.18 kada kilo na presyo sa kaparehong panahon noong 2019.

Ayon kay Dar, ang mga nasabing survey ay nagpapakita lamang ng totoong presyo ng palay na taliwas sa sinasabi ng ilang grupo.

“Makikita dito na hindi nagkakalayo ang data na ginagamit ng gobyerno, and definitely the reality is, hindi kasing baba ang presyo ng palay as interest groups claim on social media,” ang wika ni Dar.

Tiniyak naman ni Dar na nakahanda ang National Food Authority na bilhin ang palay na ibinibenta ng mga magsasaka sa halagang P19 kada kilo na nasa mga bodega at buying stations sa bansa. – RRD (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

DA urges LGUs, private sector anew to buy palay, corn directly from local farmers

Robie de Guzman   •   October 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday renewed its appeal to local government units (LGU) and the private sector to buy palay and corn directly from farmers to prop up prices as harvest season peaks.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said LGUs and the grains industry stakeholders will have to “step in” and purchase directly through negotiated contracts with the farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCA) since the National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay procurement is limited to buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies

“The LGU- and private sector-led palay and corn buying will complement efforts of the Department of Agriculture through the National Food Authority to buy as much as possible from rice farmers using its 2020 P10-billion procurement fund,” Dar said.

“This should be part of the ‘new normal,’ where LGUs are taking a more pro-active stance by directly buying farmers’ produce — be these rice, corn, vegetables, chicken, eggs, fish and other farm and fishery products — at reasonable prices, and then including them in their food packs for their constituents,” he added.

The Agriculture chief said the NFA has also been directed to “roll-over twice its procurement fund so it could buy P20 billion-worth of palay this year.”

Further, he said provincial governments can avail of loans from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) of up to P2 billion at two percent interest to procure palay, and acquire farm machineries and postharvest facilities.

This harvest season, the DA said it wrote the governors of the top 12 rice-producing provinces to once again buy palay from their farmers.

The DA chief likewise called on the private sector, particularly those in the grains industry, to engage in long-term contract-growing and marketing agreement with farmers’ groups to buy rice for their employees and clientele as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Dar also asked the NFA to make available its warehouses for use by farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) and LGUs.

“We will accelerate the modernization of the NFA’s drying and milling facilities so they could provide much-needed services for the benefit of our rice farmers,” he added.

New ASF outbreaks reported in 6 Luzon provinces, DA says

Robie de Guzman   •   September 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – New outbreaks of the African Swine Fever (ASF) have been monitored in six provinces in Luzon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Thursday.

During a Laging Handa briefing, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the incidents of ASF outbreaks were reported in the provinces of Albay, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon and Quirino.

The new outbreaks bring the total number of affected regions to nine, he added.

Dar assured that the culling operations for ASF-affected hogs have been implemented to ensure that no contaminated pork products will be sold in local markets.

“Mayroon po tayong ugnayan sa mga LGU sila na yung nakabantay doo sa mga areas na may declared ASF cases,may quarantine na yan hindi na makakalabas at kung ano yung kinakailangan na idepopulate,” he said.

“Lahat ng pupunta sa merkado, dapat dadaan sa slaughter houses at doon sa slaughter houses ay naka-bantay ang ating kawani ng National Meat Inspection Service at sila ang magbibigay ng certification na ito ay walang sakit at safe kainin ang karne,” he added.

The Agriculture chief also said that the government is providing hog raisers P5,000 indemnification per pig surrendered for culling.

Experts have said that the ASF virus is not harmful to humans. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

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