MATANAO, Davao del Sur – Heavily indebted farmers from various villages in Davao del Sur province trooped to the municipal government hall last week to demand support from local officials to raise the prices of their farm products.
The Aksasato (Unity) sa Katawhan sa Matanao led the protest of hundreds of farmers on Tuesday which later ended up with them attending a “special session” at the Sangguniang Bayan.
Farmer Shela Pelez, 31, from Barangay Saboy, said that in order to farm a hectare of corn products, they need to borrow money from their traders, saying “If we will not borrow (money), we could only farm a kilo of corn, which could yield a harvest of two to three kilos.”
Corn prices here range from P9 to P15 per kilo depending on the season.
Most farmers Davao Today talked to during the protest said that instead of earning from farming, they are burdened with debts from the traders they borrowed money from.
A farmer needs to borrow money from farm traders for him to purchase chemicals, seedlings, pay for labor during harvest and grass trimming, and delivery.
It took farmers four months before harvesting their money, since then, they could be able to pay loan from their traders with an interest of 5 percent per month.
Pelez, who is a mother of three students, said that at times they would borrow money from traders to spend for their daily needs like food and medicine and for their children’s schooling.
To tend her three-hectare farmland, Pelez would need to buy at least six sacks of fertilizers, each sack would cost her P1,050, plus an interest of 15 percent to be paid every month. She also needs two gallons of medicine for her farm, each gallon costs P1,500, which she had to pay with another 15 percent interest rate.
Farmers found themselves losing money after the harvest season due to their dependence on traders.
Michael Mangkal, a farmer from Sitio Sapan in Matanao who used to farm a three-hectare farmland of three hectare, admitted that he experienced losing money every after harvest season.
Mangkal, a father of four, said that he would spend at least P60,000 for farm inputs but only gets P48,000 in return after harvest.
“We always face shortage, we could no longer get finance (from the traders) that’s why we are now farming a smaller area,” Mangkal said.
Just like Pelez, Mangkal used to borrow money to buy seedlings, fertilizers, chemicals, and other financial needs for his family from traders.
Mangkal said that he only earns P500 or P1,000 if their harvest is good which means, no rat or any pest attacks the farm, no damage from too much heat, and no damage after delivering their products.
“We are now working on a smaller farm, that’s what we can afford to till,” he said.
But, the earnings from their farm is not enough for his children’s schooling.
“That is why we are here, we are here to ask support from our local officials,” he added.
The protest of the farmers in Matanao reached to a dialogue with its local government. The regular session of the municipal government was cut short to hear the farmers’ concerns.
Councilor Elmer Campañano, admitted that the local government could not provide direct solution for the farmers’ problem in increasing the prices of their products.
“[That is] beyond the control of the local government but we could find a way for that,” Campañano said.
He said they can make a resolution and address it to the concerned government agency. They also pledged to provide livelihood program for the farmers.
Antonio Flores, chairperson of the farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said that the problem of the farmers exists because the government is not running after traders who are exploiting farmers.
“Farmers do not have the capital, most of them do not have lands, thus they are forced to loan from traders,” Flores said.
With this, Flores said the traders are exploiting the farmers’ incapability to afford the farm inputs. “This is because the government is not giving support to the farmers. That is what is happening all the time,” Flores said.
Flores also pointed out that this problem does not only happening in the country but in all other agricultural countries in Southeast Asia. (davaotoday.com)