THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday said it is exploring various measures to help farmers cope with the rising prices of fertilizer, including a wider subsidy program as an immediate relief. It is also looking to promote organic fertilizer as a long-term solution.
In a virtual press briefing, agriculture officials explained the measures, which are divided into policy level and farmers’ level, that the department is undertaking to address the sector’s concerns regarding expensive fertilizer.
“We have to address the high costs of fertilizers in a holistic way. So we are doing something at the government level and also doing something to make farmers more efficient in using fertilizer,” Agriculture Undersecretary-designate Leocadio S. Sebastian told reporters.
Topping the list of measures, Sebastian said, is assessing the probability of providing additional subsidies to farmers to aid them in their fertilizer expenses. However, Sebastian pointed out that another round and expansion of the fertilizer subsidy program “requires substantial funding.”
He added, “We are scrutinizing this and studying how we can implement this.” The DA earlier rolled out a fertilizer subsidy program for rice farmers worth about P2.78 billion.
Sebastian said the DA, particularly its attached agency the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), is exploring the possibility of implementing a suggested retail price (SRP) for fertilizer products.
“The FPA will continue to monitor domestic and global prices as well as current local stocks and distribution of major fertilizer grades. The DA is studying the possibility of setting an SRP, especially if the disparity between the landed price and retail price of fertilizers is wide, he explained.
Sebastian said the FPA is also continuing efforts to help farmer cooperatives to directly import fertilizer for their own use or even for domestic sale. Furthermore, Sebastian said the Planters Products Inc. is also eyeing to import more fertilizers and other biologics, such as soil ameliorants.
At the farmers’ level, Sebastian said the department will train farmers on proper fertilizer management through its attached agency the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM). Part of this training is promoting the use of organic fertilizer and correct usage and application of inorganic fertilizers.
“We will intensify what we call balance fertilization, which is a combination of organic and inorganic combination.
For example, in rice production we can increase the organic component for fertilizers,” he said.
“Also, there are many techniques to optimize the use of urea. We must avoid applying it at the wrong amount and at the wrong time,” he added.
The DA is also looking to reduce costs of other components of farming such as labor costs, by pushing more efficient planting methods like direct seeding—a method that alone reduces labor costs of farmers by P6,000, Sebastian said.
The World Bank (WB) recently projected the average price of urea this year would be $380 per metric ton (MT), nearly 66 percent higher than its average price of $229 per MT last year.
The average price of Diammonium phosphate fertilizer this year could be $590 per MT compared to its average quotation of $312 per MT last year, according to WB projections.
The retail price of fertilizers in the Philippines, as of mid-October, rose by as much as P100 per bag compared to their price levels in mid-September, based on latest FPA data.
For example, the average price of DAP is now at P1,965.72 per 50-kilogram bag from P1,895.97; while the average price of urea (prilled) is now at P1,630.95 per bag from P1.523.14 previously.
The price of urea (granular) is now P1,580.22 per bag from last month’s P1,494.8, while complete fertilizer is now priced at P1,404.23 per bag from P1,353.43.