DA eyes ₱1.9-B budget for biofertilizers in 2024

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 12) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has requested a budget allocation of ₱1.9 billion for its biofertilization program in 2024, an official said.

The program aims to resolve the plateauing soil fertility of the country, DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian told reporters in a press briefing on Friday.

"Alam ito ng mga magsasaka. Kahit mayroon tayong fertilizer subsidy at certified seed na pinamimigay, nakikita namin na hindi na masyadong umaangat [‘yung lupa] kasi ‘yung kalusugan ng ating lupa ay bagsak na," he said.

[Translation: Farmers know this. Despite fertilizer subsidies and certified seeds being distributed, we see that the soil is not improving much because its health is failing.]

Sebastian added that the program will boost rice production by combining the use of organic fertilizer, biofertilizer, and inorganic fertilizer (urea).

"Our continued use of inorganic fertilizer is unsustainable. It is making our soil acidic and making our production plateauing," he noted.

Another scam?

On April 27, the DA released Memorandum Order No. 32 that contains guidelines for the use and distribution of biofertilizers to improve rice production.

In the memorandum order, the DA said the use of two bags of urea per hectare costs ₱4,000 while its selected biofertilizer "can substitute for at least two bags of urea without sacrificing the yield."

The cost of biofertilizers in the market ranges from ₱500 to ₱5,000 per bag, the undersecretary said.

On Monday, agricultural group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) warned that the DA's plan to order and use biofertilizers may result in another fertilizer scam. The scandal involved ₱728 million in fertilizer funds allegedly diverted to the 2004 election campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

SINAG also argued that the use of biofertilizers in commercial scale is not yet proven to result in higher yield and cost efficiency.

READ: Agri group: DA’s order on use of biofertilizer may result in scam

Sebastian, however, said the procurement process will be "fair and transparent" to prevent corruption.