NTA fails to solve tobacco farmers woes – farmers group

STA. CRUZ, ILOCOS SUR – The National Tobacco Administration is falling short of solving long-standing woes of tobacco farmers, said farmers group Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation).
Though the NTA via Administrator Dr. Robert Seares in the agency’s Facebook account posted gains during his first 100 days in office saying, “(he) went straight to do what he needed to deliver.”
On May 23, NTA Administrator Seares said he drew attention to his effort to make the crop “sustainable, lucrative and mutually beneficial” especially for the farmers.
But organized tobacco farmers think otherwise. They criticized Seares for “failing to mitigate the plunging price of dried tobacco leaves in his first 100 days in office.”
Antonino Pugyao, chairperson of STOP Exploitation said, “how can Seares claim to have delivered what we, the farmers need when the price of our product remains low and even continue to decline.”
According to him the average buying price for a kilo of dried tobacco leaves for the month of May is P83 compared to last season’s P89.
The tobacco farmers group added, “besides the disheartening market value of our produce, the NTA leadership also fell short of resolving the unfair contract farming provisions imposed by trading centers and tobacco companies.”
STOP Exploitation also criticized Seares’ account on his engagement with local government units regarding the utilization of their tobacco excise tax share. “Instead of pushing for corruption-ridden agro-industrial structures and token livelihood projects, Administrator Seares should instead throw his support to our proposal for direct monetary incentives and zero-interest loans for farmers chargeable to their excise tax shares,” said Zaldy Alfiler, the tobacco farmers group’s secretary general.
Besides giving farm tools and financial assistance, LGUs can cushion the low tobacco price by providing production incentives, Alfiler pointed out.
“LGUs can give farmers P10 per kilo as production incentive, the total amount for the incentive will only be around 4% of the total LGU shares if computed from what La Union and the two Ilocos provinces received last year for the 2013 tobacco season,” he explained.
Records from the Department of Budget and Management in 2016 showed that Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and La Union received a total of P9.11 billion for the 359 million kilograms of tobacco produced in 2013. Ace Alegre / ABN

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