THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is limited by the current budget from offering additional fertilizer subsidies, an official said, but subsidies are still available to rice farmers, including a larger subsidy for those that plant high-yield hybrid rice, a variety it is incentivizing to meet output targets.

“Let us put it this way. We need fertilizer in agriculture. It is what farmers are looking for every cropping season. But as regards giving additional cash above what is budgeted is beyond our power,” according to Narciso A. Edillo, regional executive director for the DA in the Cagayan Valley.

The subsidy program currently in place provides a P2,000 fertilizer voucher for registered farmers planting inbred rice varieties and P3,000 for those planting hybrid rice.

In December, the DA estimated that P2.78 billion worth of fertilizer subsidies were claimed by farmer-beneficiaries, representing 93.45% of the total funds available.

In February, the DA entered negotiations with China for fertilizer price concessions.

The Philippines will need 600,000 metric tons (MT) of fertilizer for the first rice planting season, according to department estimates. The DA inventory currently holds 200 MT.

“There is a tremendous increase in the price of fertilizers, because the increased transport expenses in the delivery of fertilizers from the country of origin to local dealer level also affected local fertilizer prices,” Mr. Edillo said.

“Fertilizer is a recurring problem as producing countries have (restricted exports). Because of the demand, transport costs are expensive and moreover, the countries producing fertilizers are prioritizing their constituents in domestic agriculture,” he added.

Some of the overhead expenses in the transport of fertilizer include duties, arrastre, wharfage checkerage, stevedoring, weighing, and trucking, which “will be incurred upon the landing of fertilizers from port to its transport to the distributor’s warehouse and to the different dealers nationwide. An increase in freight cost in Southeast Asia has been also recorded in recent months,” Mr. Edillo said.

Qualified farmers can receive a supply of free fertilizer from the DA, provided they are registered with the department’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture, which contains basic information on legitimate farmers, farm laborers, and fisherfolk.

The fertilizer subsidy program will be sustained to prepare for the upcoming dry planting season. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson