FARMERS and fisherfolk said they will need fuel subsidies if the government is to meet its agriculture production targets, noting that the higher cost of fuel is hindering their operations.

In a statement on Tuesday, the agriculture organizations asked the government to roll back fuel prices and to subsidize their industries.

“The cumulative increases in fuel prices have taken their toll on the marginalized sectors, who are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic and successive natural calamities. Specifically, the rural sectors are being pushed to bankruptcy and chronic poverty due to increases in production expenses following unabated oil price hikes,” Anakpawis Party-list President Ariel B. Casilao said. 

Mr. Casilao said that according to Pamalakaya an organization of small fishermen, diesel fuel currently accounts for 80% of their production costs, limiting them to four to six hours of fishing a day instead of eight, and three days a week of fishing instead of the usual four.

In a news conference early on Tuesday, Acting Presidential Spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said the government has appropriated P500 million from its 2022 national budget to provide fuel discounts for farmers and fisherfolk.

Mr. Nograles was referring to the Fuel Discount for Farmers and Fisherfolk Program, which was authorized by Special Provision No. 20 of the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022 or Republic Act 11639.

Under the program, qualified fishermen and farmers who operate and own their own equipment can avail of 1.5% discount on fuel purchase, with the trigger event for the discounts being a Dubai crude oil price, as reflected in the Mean of Platts Singapore index for the region, in excess of $80 per barrel for three months.

BusinessWorld asked the Department of Agriculture to comment on possible fuel subsidies, but it had not replied at the deadline.

On Monday, domestic fuel prices increased by P1.20 for gasoline, P1.05 for diesel, and 65 centavos for kerosene. This is the seventh consecutive time fuel prices have risen.

Since the start of the year, prices of gasoline, diesel, and kerosene products have risen by P7.95, P10.2, and P9.10, respectively. — Marielle C. Lucenio