• Food self-sufficiency efforts in peril due to adulterated fertilizers

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    Local corn growers on Wednesday expressed concern over the proliferation of adulterated fertilizers and pesticides, saying that the government should immediately investigate the illegal practice in the industry.

    In an interview, Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize) President Roger Navarro said that such practice in the fertilizer industry puts in peril the government’s food self-sufficiency targets.

    “Because the fertilizers and pesticides that we are using are adulterated, we may not achieve the desired [self-sufficiency] target, not only in corn, but across all agricultural commodities that depend on these products,” Navarro said.

    For corn sector alone, the official said that production may drop by at least 30 percent, while unregulated components mixed with the fertilizers can cause long-terms effects to the quality of soil.

    “We are seeing a minimum of 30 percent decline in yield per hectare. Aside from that, it will also have a long-term damage to the soil,” he said.

    He said that there are several reported cases where industrial salt or amosul was mixed with Urea to make it look like Potash. In some cases, other components were mixed with red cement or sometimes with achuete, kesirite, and other chemicals to resemble fertilizer.

    The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics earlier said that corn harvest may drop by 4 percent to 3.329 million metric tons in the first half of 2013, from 3.469 million MT a year ago. This is because of the contraction of harvest area and decrease in yield per hectare.

    Based on farmers’planting intentions, the July-September 2013 corn output is expected to increase from 2.431 million MT last year to 2.436 million MT this year. Harvest area may expand, while yield may remain the same as last year’s 2.68 MT per hectare.

    The PhilMaize chief said that despite increase in harvested areas in the third quarter, they have not seen significant increase in yield per hectare because the purity and efficacy of the fertilizers were compromised.

    “The problem is that we are going into the harvest season by end of September. If we are not going to do something about these adulterated fertilizers, come next cropping season, we can expect declining corn production,” he said.

    Corn is the second most important crop in the Philippines. About 14 million Filipinos prefer white corn as their main staple and yellow corn accounts for about 50 percent of livestock mixed feeds.

    Some 600,000 farm households depend on corn as a major source of livelihood, in addition to transport services, traders, processors and agricultural input suppliers who directly benefit from corn production, processing, marketing and distribution. Corn is also processed into high value products, such as cornstarch, corn syrups, corn oil, gluten and snack foods.

    At an average, a corn farmer may use 12-15 bags of fertilizers per hectare in one cropping season.

    At present, almost 100 percent of the fertilizers and pesticides (expect organic fertilizers) used by farmers were imported. It accounts for more than 50 percent of the total production cost in the corn sector.

    In line with this, PhilMaize called on the Department of Agriculture, through the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, to create a task force that will monitor the industry and ensure that cases will be filed against unscrupulous traders.

    The group also said that the DA-FPA should conduct awareness campaign against the adulterated fertilizers and pesticides, which are sold in the market every planting season, for the past five years.

    “We’ve been trying to coordinate with the FPA, but they said that they are lacking the funding to do regular monitoring of the products in the market,” Navarro said.

    PhilMaize said that it is the FPA mandate to assure adequate supplies of fertilizer and pesticide at reasonable costs, as well as rationalize fertilizer manufacturing and marketing and protect consumers from the risks inherent in pesticide use while teaching the agriculture sector the proper uses of farm inputs.

    “If they are not going to do anything about it, all our efforts in attaining food self-sufficiency will go to waste,” Navarro said.

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