QUEZON CITY – More than 100 tobacco farmers from the Ilocos Region staged a protest to press for just price and favorable contract terms for their produce during the National Tobacco Tripartite Consultative Conference (NTTCC) held at the National Tobacco Administration office here on September 5-6 .
The Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation), an independent farmers’ organization has called for a P128/kilogram price without classification in this biennial event attended by tobacco farmers, cigarette manufacturers and trading centers to set the minimum buying price of tobacco for the next two years
According to Zaldy Alfiler, Secretary General of the group, P128 is a just price so that the tobacco farmer can realize a profit from his produce.
The group also has called for the abolition of the classification system as tobacco companies and trading centers do not follow the classification set by the NTA. Farmers’ produce are also subjected to downgrading especially during and after the Holy Week.
He stressed that tobacco farmers carry the burden of creating the produce but are always on the losing end of the deal as it is the tobacco companies that rake in billions in profit.
Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC), which controls 83% of the cigarette market, earned P1.04 billion in 2015 and P2.59 billion in 2016 – a 149% increase, according to Alfiler.
He added that tobacco farmers remain poor as he cited a study conducted by the Action for Economic Reforms and American Cancer Society that noted 20% of the tobacco farmers in the country are recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This means that about 7,400 farmers are living below the poverty threshold. The same study said that farmer’s real profit is only P16,227 ($324.54) for every hectare.
Based on STOP Exploitation’s price monitor, the average price per kilogram of tobacco during the buying seasons were at P93 in 2015, P89 in 2016 and P83 in 2017. This despite the reported payment of tobacco companies for imported unprocessed tobacco at P161 based on NTA data. The agency’s record also shows a P5,500 drop of net profit of tobacco farmers from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 tobacco season.
Aside from the proposed price, STOP Exploitation also called for the following:
-For the NTTCC to be a venue to tackle all the issues that affect tobacco farmers
-For the NTA to review the contracts of companies and trading centers to ensure that farmers are not short-handed and taken advantage of
-For the NTA to ensure that the projects funded under the tobacco excise tax laws directly benefit the farmers, and
-To allow representatives from farmer’s organizations to enter trading centers as per the agreement in 2015’s NTTCC. (Tawid News)