Biofertilizer push not to overhaul farmers' synthetic fertilizer use: DA

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2023 05:00 PM

ABS-CBN News/File
Rice fields get ready for harvesting in Guimba, Nueva Ecija, on September 02, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday assured farmers that the government's rollout of biofertilizer guidelines does not aim to overhaul their use of other fertilizers, saying their program wants a "balanced" implementation of fertilizer use. 

Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian said their program would promote the use organic, inorganic, and biofertilizers to give farmers options. 

Asked if the program will completely replace the use of synthetic fertilizers, Sebastian answered in the negative.

"Iyong ating programa, balanced. So ibig sabihin, gagamitan natin ng organic – iyong mga compost, iyong mga kumbaga mga chicken manure, ganiyan, iyong mga waste materials na galing sa bukid, iyong dayami, iyong mga ganiyan na decompose – gagamitan din natin iyon pang-basal," said Sebastian in a public briefing. 

"Gusto sana natin palawakin na iyong paggamit ng biofertilizer kasi ito iyong isa sa mga nakikita natin na makakatulong sa ating mga magsasaka para mabawasan ang kanilang gastos," he added.

Biofertilizers are cheaper compared to other types, he pointed out, as this can be bought for as low as P500 per bag "depending on the technology." Some of these could reach up to P1,000 or P5,000 per hectare and this could help maintain the quality of soil. 

Synthetic or inorganic fertilizers use urea, which provides nitrogen to plants or agriculture products so it could produce protein. This has direct and immediate impact to yields, a reason why farmers prefer this, the official earlier told reporters. 

But this can be expensive, sometimes reaching P3,000 per bag, he said. This also lowers the soil quality and health, said Sebastian, as many nutrients get absorbed by synthetic fertilizers. 

"Marami ng mga nutrient na wala na sa ating lupa, at kapag patuloy pa rin nating gamitin ang inorganic ay talagang hindi na rin aangat masyado ang ating production, ang ating ani," he said. 

The official said the government aims to locally produce biofertilizers so the country will not depend on outside sources.

The DA wants to provide vouchers to farmers who want to use biofertilizers by next year, as the agency would focus on promoting and procuring these for now. 

The government will implement a "large-scale promotion" of biofertilizer use by October or November, he said. 

"We are going into a more sustainable, ecofriendly and a climate friendly rice production in the Philippines with that kind of technology," said Sebastian. 

The DA earlier this month released guidelines to regional offices on the rollout of biofertilizer use to prevent a repeat of the fertilizer fund scam. 

This guide, Sebastian said, would ensure that biofertilizers procured would have competitive pricing and be compatible to regions where it would be used.

Agriculture group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) had questioned the haste of the biofertilizer push, and urged the DA to leave the decision of fertilizer type to farmers. 

Video from PTV