FRESH claims of overpriced fertilizer procured for distribution to farmers have no basis because the bid process for the second round of acquisitions is ongoing, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

In a statement Saturday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar rejected allegations put forward by farmers’ group SINAG (Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura), saying: “We are wondering where SINAG Chairman Rosendo O. So has gathered his information, as the second round of bidding has not yet been completed. However, early indications show that the public bidding for various lots for Regions 1 and 2, and North Cotabato is considered a failure.”

SINAG’s Mr. So had alleged that prices realized in the bid process for urea fertilizer were “overpriced and disadvantageous to the government.”

“In the case of SINAG, Mr. So is again misleading the media and the general public. It is grossly unfair, and he should apologize publicly,” Mr. Dar said.

The second round of fertilizer auctions has a budget of over P1.3 billion. The first round awarded lots after an auction in May.

“Just like what happened in May, the DA again qualified only one bidder per lot (contract/s grouped together to form one lot). And all the bid prices are again ridiculously overpriced,” Mr. So said.

“The DA pushed through with the next round of bidding despite protests from various farmer groups that the first contracts awarded are overpriced. Even lawmakers from both the House of Representatives and the Senate have cautioned the DA against holding succeeding biddings,” Mr. So added.

According to SINAG, the DA auctioned six lots for Region 1, Region 2, and the North Cotabato province in the second round.

So far, the qualified bidders are Goldman’s Supply Corp. for North Cotabato with a bid of P975 per bag; First Planters Agri Solution for La Union and Ilocos Sur at P975 per bag and Pangasinan at P985 per bag; and Universal Harvester, Inc. for Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino at P975 per bag.

Mr. So said that some of SINAG’s members who are distributors and outlet owners revealed that the fertilizer retail prices in Regions 1 and 2 are lower than the DA’s reported prices.

“United Harvester, Inc., which won the contracts for Region 2, (sells fertilizer at retail) for only P860 per bag. In some areas, for as low as P850 per bag. That amounts to a P125 overprice per bag of fertilizer,” Mr. So said.

Mr. So said that Region 1 has a urea fertilizer allocation of 797,089 bags, while Region 2 has 614,233 bags, for a total of 1.41 million bags.

In May, the DA awarded out four initial contacts worth P1.8 billion to La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp. and Atlas Fertilizer to supply Central Luzon, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.

The DA has a budget of P5.69 billion for the fertilizer procurement, with a maximum price of P1,000 per bag. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave