The Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) today criticized National Tobacco Administration head Dr. Robert Seares for failing to mitigate the plunging price of dried tobacco leaves, contrary to what he claims to have achieved in his first 100 days in office.
“How can Seares claim to have delivered what we, the farmers need when the price of our product remains low and even continue to decline?” Antonino Pugyao, chairperson of STOP Exploitation said.
In a statement posted in the National Tobacco Administration’s Facebook account on May 23, Seares drew attention to his effort to make the crop “sustainable, lucrative and mutually beneficial” especially for the farmers.
But according to Pugyao, the average buying price for a kilo of dried tobacco leaves this month is P83.00 compared to last season’s P89.00.
“Besides the disheartening market value of our produce, the NTA leadership also fell short of resolving the unfair contract farming provisions imposed by trading centers and tobacco companies,” he added.
The peasant group also took note of Seares’ account on his engagement with local government units regarding the utilization of their tobacco excise tax share.
“Instead of pushing for corruption-ridden agro-industrial structures and token livelihood projects, Administrator Seares should instead throw his support to our proposal for direct monetary incentives and zero-interest loans for farmers chargeable to their excise tax shares,” Zaldy Alfiler, STOP Exploitation Secretary General said.
He stressed that besides giving farm tools and financial assistance, local government units can cushion the low tobacco price by providing production incentives.
“LGUs can give farmers P10.00 per kilo as production incentive, the total amount for the incentive will only be around 4% of the total LGU shares if computed from what La Union and the two Ilocos provinces received last year for the 2013 tobacco season,” Alfiler explained.
Based from the records of the Department of Budget and Management last year, the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and La Union received a total of P9.11 billion for the 359 million kilograms of tobacco produced in 2013. (Tawid News)