DA reverts to ‘corrupt’ inputs distribution system

DA reverts to ‘corrupt’ inputs distribution system

Feb 14, 2024, 2:15 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


Whatever pro-farmer moves had been envisioned in the done General Appropriations Act 2024, particularly the provision of financial assistance in the form of vouchers to give clustered farmers the option to choose seed varieties, inorganic fertilizer, biofertilizers, and other farm inputs had alll been for naught.

The GAA provision could have made input providers more accountable for their products’ performance.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), in Memo Order 8 series of 2024, instead opted to revert to the old corrupt and discretionary system of procurement and distribution of inputs (seeds and fertilizers etc) using the regional and municipal field offices and the local government units to decide which inputs (even if farmers do not like them) to give and who gets to receive them.

And because the choice is with the LGUs and provincial/municipal agricultural officials, this highly discretionary system is a fertile ground for politicizing, overpricing and corrupting the system. Only those voters of the sitting local officials get the stocks.

Under GAA 2024, procurement of inputs would no longer be done by the DA field offices to be given to LGUs, but rice farmers (clustered members of cooperatives, irrigators associations and recognized farm groups and registered with the RSBSA or the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture) are provided vouchers which are funded by IMCs (intervention monitoring cards) that serves two purpose: their identification and payment system for whatever inputs they buy, the amounts and the suppliers they got them from. .

But under section 2.1 of MO8, provides only a one-time use printed voucher distributed to farmer-beneficiaries for claiming input assistance at DA-accredited merchants with the value dependent on area planted. Total budget allocated for this is P22.903 billion.

The GAA 2024 provides farmers complete leeway on their choice of suppliers, fertilizers and seeds that work best for them and conform to their individual nuances, hence eliminating only a select few suppliers that are screened and acceptable to the MAOs, PAOs and LGUs. Under the voucher and IMC systems, there is no chance of a repeat of the fertilizer (plunder) scam in the previous administrations.

The DA has been preparing for the voucher system with the issuance of a memorandum circular by November 2024, in time for the wet season crop.

There is nough time to prepare for its full implemetation for the 2024 wet season planting, DA insiders said.

Tedious process

With MO No. 8, most regions are now opting the procurement (of their choice) of hybrid seeds, biofertilizers, soil ameliorants and drone services.

The IMCs will be used to claim the input assistance from DA-accredited (as opposed to farmers’ choice) merchants.

The MO also said only biological fertilizers registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority shall be procured. But for organic fertilizers these must be registered with the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), a very tedious process, which leaves farmers very little choice on their fertilizer and soil enhancer and rejuvenators.

The Bureau of Plant Industry, Philippine Rice Research Institute (which produces world-class inbred seeds or local varieties) and the National Rice Program shall recommend the National Seed Industry Council-registered rice varieties to be procured, distributed and utilized for the project.

The MO puts much emphasis on the use of the preferred hybrid rice seeds (many of which are sourced from China) and is virtually quiet about inbred seeds (of PhilRice).

Entrusting the selection of merchants to the regional field units, MAOs, PAOs and LGUs is virtually favoring the merchants they have long been dealing with, instead of making the farmers choose the merchants they can trust to provide them seeds and inputs they think would work best for their fields.

Industry experts told OpinYon, “Happy days continue. Gusto talaga nila ang procurement para ma tailor-fit sa gusto nila. Ayaw talaga (nila) ang farmers choice.”

They lamented, “They are violating the law. It is again vested interests getting allocations” prevailing over farmers choice. They have enough time to prepare for the voucher system for the 2024 wet season planting and 2024-25 dry season planting. Yet they are now inventing reasons to justify procurement.”

They added that “favored private companies prevail over farmers’ interests to choose what is best.”

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