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Senate urged to probe DA fertilizer deal

AN umbrella group of agriculture stakeholders have asked the Senate to immediately investigate the regional bidding being conducted by the Department of Agriculture for the purchase of fertilizer at P950 per bag, which is much higher than the prevailing retail price of only P880 per bag or an overprice of P70.

In a January 25, 2021 letter to Senator Francis Pangilinan, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rosendo So, chairman of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), said they again received numerous complaints from rice farmers questioning the propriety of the DA’s regional bidding for the procurement of urea fertilizer at P950 per bag when the prevailing retail price of the farm input is only averaging at P880 per bag.

“If you would recall, we have similarly raised this concern last year when the negotiated centralized bidding price was P995/bag, when in fact, the prevailing retail price then was only between P830-P850 (per bag),” So said, citing receipts provided by farmers showing that the retail price of urea fertilizer is P880 per bag.

The SINAG official appealed to the lawmaker to initiate an inquiry into the questionable DA’s bidding for the purchase of fertilizers which was reverted to the regional offices last December 2020, after the department previously adopted the centralized bidding system last year purportedly to make the bidding more transparent and aboveboard.

“We are also wondering why the negotiated bidding was reverted to regional bodies when the claim for centralized bidding last year by the DA was to make the bidding transparent and aboveboard,” So noted.

“We are hoping that the Senate, thru your office, can shed light on these matters for the sake of our rice farmers and their families,” So said.

Last year, SINAG also called for a legislative inquiry into the alleged overpriced fertilizer supply contracts that were part of a P5.69 billion emergency procurement to help farmers weather the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alliance of the agricultural stakeholders questioned the Department of Agriculture’s approval of a reference price that was higher by at least P150 than the prevailing market prices for urea fertilizer.

“The supply contracts are grossly disadvantageous to the government. Taxpayers’ money has gone down the drain because of these overpriced urea fertilizer purchases. The DA could have done better if they just bought directly from retail outlets where prices are lower instead of bidding out these contracts,” So then said.

“Some of the winning bidders have also failed to deliver the contracted fertilizer. The Senate should look into this as well,” he added.

In May last year, the DA purchased P1.8 billion worth of urea fertilizer at approved budget cost of P1,000 per bag from two suppliers intended for distribution for Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas and Central Visayas.

Farmers have complained that the winning bids were higher than prevailing retail prices by as much as P150 per bag.

The supply contracts in question were part of the DA’s P5.69 billion emergency stimulus program Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra COVID-19 (ALPAS sa COVID-19).

However, some suppliers failed to deliver the fertilizers within the period required by the contract to the detriment of the farmers who were eagerly waiting for the farm inputs as a form of assistance from the government during the public health emergency last year.