Tobacco farmers push audit of NTA projects

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Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur: Tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region and in Abra province are pushing for a full audit of all projects awarded by the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) and coursed through local government units.

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The farmers also asked new NTA Administrator Robert Seares Sr. to thoroughly study and solve long-overdue issues of farmers particularly on floor prices and contract-growing terms.

Zaldy Alfiler, secretary general of the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation), said Seares promised to look into the issues after their meeting in Dolores, Abra, recently.

“[We] are asking the NTA to conduct a thorough inventory and audit of the projects implemented by the past administrator,” Alfiler said.

“Although we understand that these multimillion-peso projects were handed down to the local government units, isn’t… the NTA [supposed]to monitor if these funds have been utilized for the benefit of tobacco farmers?” he added.

Tobacco farmers are asking P128 per kilo of dried Virginia tobacco leaves without classification as against the NTA’s P78 per kilo floor price.

Alfiler said their demand is “just” since the daily cost of living and production expenses had risen in the last two years.

STOP Exploitation said that based on government data, the daily cost of living of farmers in the Ilocos Region have increased by P26 and crop production cost by P2,500 since 2015.

The tobacco farmers, Alfiler said, are growing restless over the government’s promises and negligence that they may eventually call on their members to stop planting tobacco.

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