The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) has joined the call urging the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to immediately issue a price freeze amidst the skyrocketing cost of fertilizers that has almost tripled in less than two years.
UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said they have been appealing to DTI and DA since last year to “implement a price cap on fertilizers 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 fertilizers were already at P1,900 per 50-kilogram bag from the P800-900 price just a year ago. Now, it is being sold at P2,300-2,400. With the onset of the planting season, there will be many farmers who may not be able to afford fertilizers and this will affect production in the next crop year,” Lamata said.
“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 fertilizers 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 also finds it ironic that there are complaints about the high price of sugar “when it cannot even compensate with the high cost of all inputs we need to continue cultivating our sugar fields.”
“The DA and DTI has 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 also the hike in oil prices 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 fertilizers, 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.