STA CRUZ, ILOCOS SUR -Tobacco farmers in Ilocos region and Abra province are pushing for a full audit on all projects awarded by the National Tobacco Administration via local government units.
This is aside from still asking the new administrator of NTA Dr. Robert Seares Sr. to thoroughly study and solve long-overdue issues of farmers specifically on floor prices and contract growing terms.
“Although, we understand that Dr. Seares is still groping for the issues because he is new,” said Zaldy Alfiler, secretary general of the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) after meeting with the new NTA administrator in Dolores, Abra.
The tobacco farmers’ group official said Seares vowed to look into the woes of farmers that had long been overdue and unanswered in the past.
“(We) are asking NTA to conduct a thorough inventory and audit of the projects implemented by the past administrator,” Alfiler said, adding, “although we understand that these multi-million projects were handed down to the local government units, isn’t incumbent for the NTA to monitor if these government funds have been utilized for the benefit of tobacco farmers?”
“We stressed on their demands,” Alfiler said, “regarding price and alleged grade manipulation by traders and tobacco companies, and the review of the contract terms of the contract farming scheme.”
Tobacco farmers are asking P128 for every kilo of dried Virginia tobacco leaves without classification as against the NTA’s P78/kilo floor price.
Alfiler insisted that the P128/kilo they are demanding is just since the daily cost of living and production expenses rose significantly in the last two years.
STOP Exploitation said that based on government data, the daily cost of living of farmers in the region increased by P26 and crop production cost by P2,500 from 2015 to present.
We hoped that with Seares actually facing us and hearing out our concerns, Alfiler said, “these long-overdue problems will be solved.”
Tobacco farmers, Alfiler warned, are growing restless of the government’s unending promises and negligence, and may eventually call to (their) members to stop planting tobacco. ABN