DA defends order on use of biofertilizers to increase yield, lower cost of farmers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — It is time for Filipino farmers to use biofertilizers as the country is left behind in the more efficient and cheaper farming input, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday.

“We have been talking about biofertilizers, we have been talking about balance fertilization for the last 30 years but hindi natin ginagawa (we are not doing it) on a massive scale,” Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

He said the country has been stuck in the demonstration stage, while Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, who also learned the technology here, are already reaping its benefits.

“Since the fertility of our rice lands is also going down, it's now time that we start promoting these kinds of technologies,” Sebastian added.

READ: 82% of farmlands have low soil fertility – DA

The DA has issued Memorandum Order 32 that sets the guidelines on the distribution and use of biofertilizers.

Agricultural group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), however, warned against it, saying it may result in another fertilizer scam. 

SINAG chairperson Rosendo So said “the basis for MO 32 is flawed from the onset as the cost of urea is now only ₱1,100 per bag. At two bags per hectare, the cost of urea is only ₱2,200 per hectare, contrary to the claim of MO 32 of ₱4,000 per hectare.”

“DA’s official bidding price of urea is in fact, only at ₱1,230 per bag; at two bags per hectare, it is only ₱2,460. Again, way below the false information of ₱4,000 per hectare. Thus, there is no real savings, as claimed by MO 32,” he added.

Sebastian said the calculation indicated in the order was only for “illustration purposes.”

However, the price of urea is still high, averaging ₱1,500 per bag to ₱1,900 per bag, he noted.

Biofertilizers only cost ₱500 to ₱5,000 per bag depending on the brand and its technology, the DA official said.

Farmers using biofertilizer harvest around 250 cavans of rice per hectare and are able to sell their produce for ₱25 a kilogram, he noted.

Sebastian said the guidelines provide requirements for biofertilizer suppliers to ensure successful implementation of the program.

The companies need to make sure the fertilizer to be used was tested in the location and that technical support is provided to farmers, he added.