Tobacco farmers ready to faceoff with new NTA Chief

SANTIAGO, ILOCOS SUR – Tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region and Abra are facing off with newly-appointed National Tobacco Administrator (NTA) Dr. Robert Seares Sr. on March 27 to thresh out issues concerning the low pricing of tobacco products.
Led by the Solidarity of Peasant Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) with other tobacco farmers’ associations, tobacco farmers are demanding government to raise the floor price of tobacco, which had been “floored” for the past three years. “We have many important issues to raise before the NTA,” explained Stop Exploitation secretary general Zaldy Alfiler. Among these concerns, he said, aside from the low tobacco price, are the onerous provisions under the contract growing programs, and sub-standard irrigation projects funded by NTA.
Alfiler said the P2 to P4 increase during the 2015 Tobacco Tripartite Conference is insufficient to offset the increase of prices for basic needs and farm inputs.
“From 2015, the daily cost of living for farmers in the region increased by P26 based on the inflation rate released by the government, making our demand to raise the price of tobacco proper and just,” explained Alfiler.
Alfiler added that the slump in tobacco prices and unfair conditions under the contract-growing program of tobacco companies and trading centers has also increased the burden on farmers.
Farmers groups are now consulting their members to unify them in the different tobacco producing towns of Ilocos, La Union and Abra, and to send representatives for the March 23 protest actions in front of the big tobacco trading centers in Ilocos Sur and to the March 27 dialogue with NTA Administrator Seares.
“We urge Administrator Seares to consult with the negotiating panel of the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines on how the industry can genuinely improve the lives of farmers in Ilocos,” said Alfiler. Ace Alegre / ABN

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