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The Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP) join various organizations in the call to investigate the Department of Agriculture (DA)'s fertilizer scam and hold its officials accountable as this will only aggravate indebtedness, bankruptcy and hunger among Filipino farmers who are already struggling to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The overpriced procurement of urea fertilizers shows the government's insincerity to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to farmers. During DA's procurement, it was learned that farmers in Nueva Ecija and Tarlac were able to buy a sack of urea at P850 only while in some provinces, farmers were able to get it at P810-P830 per sack. Last month, notices of award were issued to La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp. for P1.69 billion supply contracts covering Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Western Visayas and Atlas Fertilizer for P96.74 million supply contract in Central Visayas. The DA's P1.8-billion fertilizer supply deal under its COVID-19 response program will only force farmers to turn to usurers. The DA is set to roll out its “Buy 2, Take 2” fertilizer policy scheme supposedly to help farmers during the rainy season. However, only those who have received palay seeds under the rice resiliency project and had bought 2 bags on their own with proof of receipts can avail the two free bags limiting the beneficiaries of the said scheme and depriving farmers of due support. Also, as per farmers' experience, use of urea during the rainy seasons is inappropriate as it will only weaken palay crops. Depriving farmers of due support in this pandemic will lead to greater hunger and poverty. Instead of providing production subsidy and enhancing agricultural productivity, the government is vent on rice importation that only worsens food insecurity. According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), global hunger could double due to coronavirus pandemic. Based on its fourth annual Global Report on Food Crises, food insecurity was already on the rise last year before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis. Strengthening food security amidst the pandemic should be an utmost priority especially now that some countries have already implemented trade restrictions on food or agricultural products due to the spread of the novel coronavirus around the world. Vietnam, the world’s third-largest rice exporter has temporarily suspended rice export contracts as well as Thailand, Cambodia and India. For a country like the Philippines which is import dependent, there is a bigger possibility of food crisis if the government will not seriously address the concerns of the Filipino farmers.#

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