Press Release
April 21, 2008

Zubiri urges farmers : "Go organic"

"The assumption is correct that there could be a shortage of fertilizer since urea fertilizer that is widely used to increase the nitrogen content in the soil is petroleum-based. Therefore, when petrol prices go up, so will the prices of fertilizer," warned Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri yesterday.

The UPLB trained agriculturist and environmentalist strongly urged the government" to take two steps to solve the problem. First, ban the export of fertilizer components that we send to China and other countries which in return they export back to us as expensive fertilizers. These are phosphates, sulfur, ammonium nitrates and others. Instead, we should produce our own fertilizer for our farmers."

"Second, go on a massive education campaign to go organic. Promote organic fertilizer such as chicken manure and even sugarcane waste such as the mudpress which are high in natural nitrogen and can enrich the soil's nutrients. We have an abundance of these in the Philippines tapping all our livestock producers and sugar mills nationwide. And, utilize the expertise of the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority as lead agency under the Department of Agriculture to oversee its implementation."

Zubiri stressed that "organic fertilizer is much cheaper at P120 per sack as compared to P1,000 per bag of urea. That will help solve the fertilizer problem."

Also yesterday, Zubiri said he "did not believe that emergency power was necessary for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to address the food price hikes especially of rice of which we consume 33,000 metric tons a day. She has just got to crack the whip."

"Some remedies and long-term solutions have been initiated even without emergency powers. They are implemented at different levels by the Department of Agriculture, the National Food Authority and other food agencies," Zubiri said.

"I'm confident that if explained very well, the Executive will have Congress' support on the needed increased budgetary requirements. Thus, extra powers are not needed at this time."

"The areas of loss and spoilage during harvest, drying, milling and storage from lack of facilities have been recognized and we'll just have to see where the funds are to be sourced and where it will go. So with hoarding and smuggling, that are being taken up by the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and other agencies."

"Rising cost of inputs especially fertilizer which is petroleum-based and the cost of certified and hybrid seeds is a big factor." A sack of urea that was around P900 per sack in April last year is now more than P1,000 per sack; NPK (or complete fertilizes) was just around P760 per sack is now P1,195 per sack; Ammosul from P492 to P760 per sack; Ammophus from P724 to P1158.

"At these prices of input, farmers are being hit hard. Even with the additional P5 per kilo palay farmgate buying price of NFA, anybody in that position will think more than twice if farming is indeed still worth it. Or will it just drive them deeper into debt.?

"The disparity in fertilizer prices is also a cause for alarm. For example urea is most expensive in Eastern Visayas which includes Samar, one of the so-called critical areas easily isolated by calamities and Leyte also a critical area for being highly-urbanized due to population. NPK is most expensive in Socksargen; ammosul, in Eastern Visayas; and, ammophos in Central Visayas (Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Cebu )."

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